Faith and Reason: Philosophers Explain Their Turn to Catholicism, an anthology edited by Brian Besong and Jonathan Fuqua, will be out next month. You can pre-order at Amazon. My essay “The God of a Philosopher” appears in the volume, and recounts how I came to reject atheism for Catholicism, specifically (rather than some other religion or a purely philosophical theism). Other contributors to the volume include Peter Kreeft, J. Budziszewski, Candace Vogler, Robert Koons, Francis Beckwith, and several other philosophers.
Sunday, March 24, 2019
New volume on philosophers and Catholicism
Posted by Edward Feser at 7:13 PM
Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
Hey Dr. Feser, this looks great. Is this the book on the truth of the Catholic Faith that you mentioned in this earlier post?: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/09/10th-anniversary-open-thread.htmlReplyDelete
@Archstanton (love the username, one of my favorite films of all time),Delete
No, the anthology book featured in this article is a compilation of testimonial essays from converts to Catholicism. The book discussed in the past article you linked is a different work, which he has planned, or is in the queue, so to speak.
Thanks, Tritium, glad to hear it! I just wanted to make sure that he was going to release a full-length work of his own on the topic later on. He said in the earlier post that he may switch around the schedule of those projects.Delete
1. Just preordered it, will arrive on April the 29th.Delete
2. @ Archstanton,
I sure hope that he switches the schedule, I wanted his book on the truth of the Catholic Faith the moment I heard he planned it.
Looks like a very interesting book. Honestly, as I struggle to understand the Five Ways and books like Five Proofs, the thing that keeps me going is knowing that someone smarter than I am has thought longer about these arguments and concluded they are true.ReplyDelete
Side note: is it common to struggle with concepts like the need for sustaining causes, the fact that everything in motion is moved by another, etc? Is there anything you struggled with and how did you find the answer?
Hierarchical causality was something I did not understand at first. But it makes perfectly sense. The coffee mug example Dr. Feser gave was confusing to me at first, but I eventually got it.Delete
Another example would probably be the Church: Jesus instituted the Church during His earthly life, which would be the temporal cause. But it is held in existence not by temporal causation, but by hierarchical causation (Jesus being the reason for Her existence at any given time). Would Jesus stop to exist, then the Church would also stop to exist, at least as a divine institution.
It might help to try to explain what you're reading/thinking about to yourself. When we present an argument ourselves, we are forced to pay more attention to it and it often helps with understanding.
Also consider taking a look at other arguments; some may be simpler and easier to understand than others. The Leibnizian argument, or the Rationalist Proof as Feser calls it, would be such an example (in my view). Understand the difference between a contingent thing (something that could fail to exist even if it does exist; something that doesn't have to be the case, even if it were eternal) and a necessary being (something that couldn't even in principle fail to exist, something that absolutely MUST be the case, like 2 plus 2 equals 4). Then reflect on the principle of sufficient reason - how a contingent thing must have an explanation for why it exists, how it is absurd to suggest something contingent could just exist with no cause or explanation whatsoever, like one mere possibility among many just causelessly and inexplicably being real. Notice how the number of contingent things, or how long they have existed for, doesn't change the need for an explanation. There must be a necessary being to account for why anything exists.
Then you can see that most of the five ways follow this same pattern, only that they cash out contingency in terms of "act and potency", "essence and existence", and include the technical discussion about hierarchical series of causes. They are different arguments but they are pretty much based around the same basic insight: that the existence of contingent beings, even an infinite series of contingent beings - and even if existing from eternity - requires an explanation in terms of something non-contingent. That which does not have to exist must have an explanation for why it exists; that which would be merely potential needs to be actualized in order to be real; that which doesn't have to be needs a reason for why it is rather than not; and so on. Why does anything at all exist rather than nothing? The only acceptable, non-circular explanation would involve some kind of necessity: "because there MUST be something". Hence a being who is necessary, whose essence is existence, who is purely actual, etc.
The problem is that I read Five Proofs and Aquinas but didn't really understand the natural theology fully. I'm definitely going to give Five Proofs another thorough read, perhaps starting with the contingency argument. And maybe I'll find another book so that I can hear it put forth in a different way. Before then I have a book about scholastic metaphysics that I'm slowly digging through. I'm hoping that perhaps understanding the idea of per se causation, hylemorphism, essence and existence, more fully will allow me to apply these ideas easier to the arguments. Or perhaps my brain is just fried from exam time and I'm just not able to think enough. Anyway,
It took me over a year to fully understand and appreciate the arguments for classical theism and the underlying ideas on which the arguments are based. It was a good thing that I never assumed I properly understood the arguments; whenever I didn't understand something, I suspected the problem was with me, not the arguments. This is what allowed me to persist. So keep up the good work!
What helped me to understand all the arguments was thinking in general terms rather than in particular terms. For example, we don't need to track and trace what in particular is actualizing this or that potential in the world along the series of causes; we need only recognize that, if a potential is being actualized, it must end with that which is Pure Actuality.
As for Per Se Series causation, it helps to remember the difference between instrumental and principal causation. An instrumental cause is powerless to do anything by itself…and multiplying them and creating a series extends the problem – not solve it. There must ultimately be a principal cause – something non-derivative.
Illustration always helps. Aquinas’s illustration of the carpenter and the saw is quite good. A saw is an instrumental cause, its operation depends on the carpenter. If we deny the carpenter, all we are left with is a saw. And whether there is one or many interconnected saws, all are powerless either way without the carpenter, here and now.
And in arguments like the argument from essence and existence, we are not necessarily proposing that there is a series of causes; rather, it is that considering the notion of a series of causes helps us to see why there must ultimately be a non-derivative (principal) cause.
I hope this was relevant in some way!
Jason, can you ID a few books that you thought were most useful in understanding classical theism? I have read Feser's "Aquinas" and that's about it. I am an engineer with no philosophical background.Delete
The book that was extremely helpful, aside from 'Aquinas' by Feser, was 'The Experience of God' by David Bentley Hart.
Those two books complement each other very nicely. These two books together will help you to understand classical thiesm at a fairly substantial level.
Other books I have read (thanks to Google Books previews) include 'The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas' by Wippel, and 'Commentary on Summary Contra Gentiles' by Brian Davies. Davies' explanations are not as deep as those of Feser's or Hart's, yet nevertheless are extremely helpful.
Many of Dr Feser's blog posts on classical theism are extremely helpful as well.
Beyond that, I have read dozens of academic journal articles relating to classical theism (as I had access to many journals during my university years). Some you may be able to find through Google.
And of course, after reading all these various works, I went back to Aquinas equipped with the requisite knowledge to understand him. In particular, the summa theologica, summa contra gentiles, and de ente et essentia (on being and essence)
Hope this helps.
I should also add that I've read most of Feser's other books, including The Last Superstition, Scholastic Metaphysics (though this is less about theism and more about the principles on which much of theism is based), Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Neo-Scholastic Essays.
All extremely helpful and highly recommended.
Cool, I will read this, I am glad that you just keep writing essays and putting them into booksReplyDelete
You have a Brazilian name. Are from Brazil??Delete
What do you think of the quantum switch? Does it violate causality or the law of non-contradiction?ReplyDelete
Sounds like a question for grodriques and or TheOfloin..Delete
No and no:Delete
There are two paths, on one path operation A takes place between operation B, and vice versa on the other path. Since photons behave like a wave when not being observed, they pass through both paths, therefore it undergoes both A-before-B and B-before-A, but not in the same way (each sequence occurs in a different path), so no, it contradicts neither causality nor the law of non-contradiction.
Thank you for replying. If you are interested, here is another example of such an "indefinite" causal order.Delete
I suspect a similar explanation to be given.
Has anyone read this article, posted in the NY Times, by Peter Atterton (prof. of Philosophy at San Diego State Univ.) entitled "A God Problem".ReplyDelete
Fair warning...it is a real howler, and has about as much theological depth and understanding of classical Theism, as a muddy puddle evaporating on a dry lake bed. That being said, the intellectual content and rigour is right up to par for the execrable NY Times.
Skimmed over it. Asinine, but far from unexpected given the contemporary discourse around religion.Delete
The NYT invented homosexuality.Delete
Please have mercy on me for this off topic question (it is the season of Lent), but do you know of any good sources for scientific arguments on direct vs indirect sensation theory? I'm in a class on Thomistic Epistemology, and all the philosophical arguments for direct sensation theory seem compelling, but I'm interested if there is any work on this being done from the perspective of modern neuro-science. Thanks.
I thought I should bring your attention to an extremely popular atheist YouTuber who dabbles a lot in philosophy and recently attempted to pick apart the Aristotelian argument you laid out in your interview with Ben Shapiro.
Very shamefully, he links his audience (~180,000 subscribers, and a quarter million views on this particular clip) to a free pdf of Five Proofs, presumably in order to show just how worthless he considers the arguments to be.
From that video:Delete
"Jerry Coyne wrote an excellent rebuttal to Feser..."
Yeah, not worth replying to this guy.
I don't think he meant it with ill will, but a cool dude with the channel name of Mathoma did his own response, which was pretty nice. His (Mathoma's) whole channel is pretty good imo.Delete
Completely disagree. Besides being a misguided atheist who mistakenly believes he has rebutted Dr. Feser's arguments, the hooplehead shows his immoral character by the facilitation of theft, via online piracy.