Thursday, December 27, 2018

The sexual revolution devours its children

In two recent posts, we looked at philosopher Alex Byrne’s criticisms of claims made by some transgender activists to the effect that sex is not binary and that it is socially constructed.  Byrne is by no means the only philosopher alarmed at the increasingly bizarre claims being made by such activists – and the shrillness with which they are making them.  Kathleen Stock worries that such ideas will cause harm to women.  Daniel A. Kaufman warns that they threaten nothing less than the end of civil rights.  Nor are these philosophers conservatives who are hostile to the sexual revolution.  They are progressives concerned about extremism and anti-intellectualism in their own ranks.  And as if to prove the critics’ point, some of the activists have in response tried to get the critics fired and otherwise to silence them.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas every day

A Protestant friend once asked me what the point is of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.  Why is it so important to think that Christ is really present under the accidents of bread and wine?  What is the cash value of this idea?  The answer I gave him is best understood in light of the meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is about Emmanuel, God with us.  In particular, it is about the second Person of the Trinity entering the material world by taking on flesh.  He did so by entering into Mary’s womb, and that is why Mary had to be without sin, whether original or actual.  She was, in the most intimate way possible, the tabernacle of God.  And the tabernacle of God must be spotless. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Immateriality in Rome

Earlier this month I gave a talk on “The Immateriality of the Intellect” at a conference on neuroscience and the soul held at the Angelicum in Rome.  Video of the talk has now been posted at YouTube.

Links to other recent talks of mine can be found at my main website.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Byrne on why sex is not a social construct

Recently we looked at philosopher Alex Byrne’s defense of the commonsense view that there are only two sexes.  In a new article at Arc Digital, Byrne defends another aspect of sexual common sense – the thesis that the distinction between male and female is natural, and not a mere social construct.  Let’s take a look.

As is typically done these days by writers on this topic, Byrne begins by distinguishing between sex and gender.  Sex has to do with the biological distinction between male and female, whereas gender has to do with the way the difference between male and female is shaped by culture.  In the article in question, Byrne does not challenge the claim that gender is socially constructed.  He is concerned only to rebut the more radical claim that sex is socially constructed.  We’ll return to the gender question later, though, because the claim that sex differences are natural is relevant to it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

COMING SOON: Aristotle’s Revenge (Updated)

My new book Aristotle’s Revenge: The Metaphysical Foundations of Physical and Biological Science will be out early next year from Editiones Scholasticae.  More information forthcoming, but to whet your appetite, here are the cover copy and the detailed table of contents:

Actuality and potentiality, substantial form and prime matter, efficient causality and teleology are among the fundamental concepts of Aristotelian philosophy of nature.  Aristotle’s Revenge argues that these concepts are not only compatible with modern science, but are implicitly presupposed by modern science.  Among the many topics covered are the metaphysical presuppositions of scientific method; the status of scientific realism; the metaphysics of space and time; the metaphysics of quantum mechanics; reductionism in chemistry and biology; the metaphysics of evolution; and neuroscientific reductionism.  The book interacts heavily with the literature on these issues in contemporary analytic metaphysics and philosophy of science, so as to bring contemporary philosophy and science into dialogue with the Aristotelian tradition.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Opening the thread

It’s the latest open thread.  This is the time to get your off-topic comments off your chest, and to give your threadjacking impulses free rein.  From iPhones to I, Claudius, from D-list celebs to Eugene Debs, from the A-theory to Blossom Dearie – discuss whatever you like, within reason.  Just keep it civil, classy, and troll-free.

I should perhaps clarify for some readers that these open threads are not “Ask Ed anything” posts.  Sorry, I just don’t have time to respond to most questions.  Think of them instead as “Ask each other anything” posts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Byrne on why sex is binary

At Arc Digital, philosopher Alex Byrne defends the proposition that there are only two sexes, while suggesting that this has no implications one way or the other for transsexuality, gender dysphoria, and related issues.  Let’s consider both claims.

Byrne argues that it is a mistake to suppose that one’s sex is fundamentally a matter of what chromosomes one has or even what sorts of genitals one has.  Hence it is also a mistake to point to examples such as individuals who have male chromosomes but female external genitalia, or people who have only an X chromosome or XXY chromosomes, as evidence against the thesis that sex is binary.  In fact, Byrne suggests, chromosomes and genitalia are reflections of a deeper distinction, and the nature of that distinction is not captured by a mere description of the chromosomes and genitalia:

Friday, November 16, 2018

The latest on Catholicism and capital punishment

At First Things, Joseph Bessette, Michael Pakaluk, and Fr. Brian Harrison comment on Steven Long’s recent article on capital punishment and the change to the catechism, and Long responds.

Parkland shooter suspect Nikolas Cruz has assaulted a prison guard, illustrating the continuing danger murderers pose even after incarceration.

In the October 2018 issue of the magazine New Directions, Fr. Richard Norman reviews By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.  Fr. Norman says that he is “prudentially opposed” to the death penalty, yet still judges that:

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Thomas Pink on “official theology” (Updated)

At the National Catholic Register, Edward Pentin recently interviewed philosopher Thomas Pink on the subject of the failure of the Church’s leaders to teach and defend her doctrines.  (The interview is in two parts, here and here.)  Pink is interesting and insightful as always, and in general I agree with the substance of his analysis.  However, it seems to me that the way he expresses his main point is potentially misleading and could needlessly open him up to unfair criticism.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Violence in word and action

Bernard Wuellner’s always-useful Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy defines violence as “action contrary to the nature of a thing.”  Readers of Aristotle and Aquinas will be familiar with this usage, which is reflected in their distinction between natural and violent motion.  Some of their applications of this distinction presuppose obsolete science.  For example, we now know that physical objects do not have motion toward the center of the earth, specifically, as their natural end.  Hence projectile motion away from the earth is not, after all, violent.  But the distinction itself is not obsolete.  For example, trapping or killing an animal is obviously violent in the relevant sense.  It is acting contrary to the natural ends of the animal.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Capital punishment on The Patrick Coffin Show

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Patrick Coffin on the subject of capital punishment and the recent change to the Catechism.  You can now watch the interview either at The Patrick Coffin Show website or at YouTube.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

By Man on radio

Last week on The Catholic Current radio show, I was interviewed by Fr. Robert McTeigue about By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed and the recent change to the Catechism’s treatment of capital punishment.  The interview lasted an hour and you can listen to the podcast online.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The voluntarist personality

A voluntarist conception of persons takes the will to be primary and the intellect to be secondary.  That is to say, for voluntarism, at the end of the day what we think reflects what we will.  An intellectualist conception of persons takes the intellect to be primary and the will to be secondary.  For intellectualism, at the end of the day, what we will reflects what we think.  The two views are, naturally, more complicated than that.  For example, no voluntarist would deny that what we think affects what we will, and no intellectualist would deny that what we will affects what we think.  But the basic idea is that for the voluntarist, the will is ultimately in the driver’s seat, whereas for the intellectualist, the intellect is ultimately in the driver’s seat.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Caught in the web

Many of you will have heard the awful news already.  Longtime blogger Zippy Catholic has died.

David Oderberg’s new book Opting Out: Conscience and Cooperation in a Pluralistic Society has just been published by the Institute of Economic Affairs.

At the Daily Intelligencer, the liberal Andrew Sullivan on the dangerously illiberal tendencies currently unfolding within the Democratic Party. 

At Five Books, Peter Hacker on the best books on Wittgenstein.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Five Proofs on Fox News Radio (Updated)

Some time back I was interviewed by Lauren Green about my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God for her Fox News Radio show Lighthouse Faith.  You can now listen to the podcast online. [UPDATE: If you are having trouble with that link, some other options can be found here and here.]

Monday, September 24, 2018

10th anniversary open thread

While there are still a few days left to September, I should note that this month marks the 10th anniversary of this blog.  It was initially started in part to serve as a kind of online supplement to The Last Superstition, which was published around the same time.  Of the eleven books I’ve written, co-written, or edited, seven of them (including TLS) have appeared during the last ten years.  We’ll see if I can keep up the pace during the next ten years.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Reply to Blackburn on Five Proofs

In the September 7 issue of The Times Literary Supplement, Simon Blackburn reviewed my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  The following response appeared in the TLS letters page in the September 14 issue:

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The latest on Catholicism and capital punishment

Recently at Public Discourse, John Finnis defended the thesis that the Catholic Church could adopt the position that capital punishment is intrinsically immoral.  Naturally, I disagree with him.  My reply to Finnis has now been published at Public Discourse.

At First Things, Catholic theologian Steven A. Long criticizes the “magisterial irresponsibility” of the recent change to the Catechism.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The latest on Five Proofs (Updated)

UPDATE 9/16: On Friday I was interviewed about the book on the Stacy on the Right radio show.  You can listen to the interview at the show's Facebook page.
Some months back I was interviewed by Doug Keck of EWTN Bookmark about my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  The episode airs today on EWTN, and you can also watch it online either at the show’s website or at YouTube.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Why Archbishop Viganò is almost certainly telling the truth

There are five considerations that seem to me to make it very likely that Archbishop Viganò’s testimony is truthful.  To be sure, given how numerous and detailed are the claims he makes, it would not be surprising if he has gotten certain particulars wrong.  And perhaps in his passion he has inadvertently overstated things here and there.  But the main claims are probably true.  I certainly do not believe he is lying.  The reasons are these:

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Five Proofs on The Ben Shapiro Show

Recently I was interviewed by Ben Shapiro for an episode of The Ben Shapiro Show Sunday Special.  The subject is my recent book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  You can watch the interview either at YouTube or at the show’s website at The Daily Wire.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Finnis contra Francis

Prof. John Finnis is the most eminent living “new natural law” theorist, and a longtime opponent of capital punishment.  Indeed, like other NNL writers, he regards capital punishment as always and inherently wrong, and believes that the Church could adopt this novel teaching.  You might think, then, that he would approve of Pope Francis’s recent revision to the catechism.  Not so.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Hubris meets nemesis? (Updated)

UPDATE 8/29: More from the Cupich interview.  Has to be seen to be believed.

The pattern is by now familiar.  Serious criticisms are leveled by serious people against the pope; the pope ignores them; and his associates and defenders disregard the substance of the criticisms while flinging ad hominem attacks at the critics.  This happened during the doctrinal controversies over Amoris Laetitia and capital punishment, and it is happening again in the wake of Archbishop Vigano’s astonishing testimony.  The pope refuses to answer the charges against him.  The Usual Sycophants try to smear the archbishop and his defenders as disgruntled reactionaries.  Among Uncle Ted’s boys, Cardinal Cupich leapt almost immediately for the bottom of the rhetorical barrel: “Quite frankly, they also don’t like [the pope] because he’s a Latino.”

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Immateriality of the Mind

At the Society of Catholic Scientists meeting at Catholic University of America last June, I gave the keynote address on the topic “Arguments for the Immateriality of the Mind.”  You can now watch the lecture via YouTube.  (For anyone who is wondering, Prof. Karin Öberg, one of the conference organizers, is the one you’ll see introducing me.)  Some of the other conference talks can also be seen at the SCS page at YouTube.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Review of Pinker’s Enlightenment Now (Updated)

UPDATE: The review has now been unlocked and can be read for free at the CRB website.

My review of Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress appears in the Summer 2018 issue of the Claremont Review of Books.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

An Open Appeal to the Cardinals of the Church

An international group of 45 Catholic scholars and clergy has signed an appeal to the cardinals of the Catholic Church, calling on them to advise Pope Francis to retract the recent revision made to the Catechism, on the grounds that its appearance of contradicting scripture and traditional teaching is causing scandal.  The appeal and list of signatories has been published today as an open letter at First Things.

As LifeSiteNews is reporting, over 30 further Catholic scholars, clergy, and professionals have also added their signatures to the appeal.  This longer list can be viewed there.