Friday, December 13, 2019
Brungardt on Aristotle’s Revenge
At Thomistica, philosopher John Brungardt reviews Aristotle’s Revenge. He provides a fairly detailed overview of its methods and contents, and judges it “a broad, substantive book” that “has gathered and ordered a nearly universal range of topics and contemporary sources in the philosophy of nature and science,” so that “it is essential reading for those interested in the topic of the perennial Aristotelian philosophy of nature and its relationship to the particular natural sciences.”
One strength of the book is actually its negative character, that is, how it relentlessly considers and negates the possibility or plausibility of alternative principles. For first principles cannot be demonstrated, strictly speaking, from principles that are prior to them. They can only be manifested (e.g., using principles prior to us) or defended in some other way (for instance, recall Aristotle’s defense of the principles of non-contradiction in Metaphysics IV)… In Aristotle’s Revenge, Feser’s is a brilliant architectonic of retorsion and reductiones ad absurdam that gives no quarter to the metaphysical foes of the Aristotelian philosophy of nature.
Yet this extensive dialectical engagement with metaphysical enemies does not mean that Feser is unable to find any fellow travelers, allies, or friends of the Aristotelian metaphysical project. This is the other characteristic strength of the book…
So, on the one hand, Feser frequently cites philosophers outside Aristotelian or Thomistic circles to show that arriving at Aristotelian or Thomistic positions requires no special school loyalty (among other examples: support for epistemic structural realism [158–64, 191–93]; reconciling relativity with the A-theory of time ; defense of color realism ; the defense of holism in biology [384–86]). On the other hand, there are others who philosophized better than they knew and ended up with virtually Aristotelian conclusions or rediscoveries of the Stagirite’s positions, if only their arguments were pressed a bit further, clarified, or seen in a more favorable Aristotelian light (to take a few prominent examples: the embodiedness of cognition [95–97, 97ff]; the neo-Aristotelian approach to understanding laws of motion [177–90]; the reality of motion [at 215]; problems attending denying the reality of temporal passage by making a metaphysics out of mathematical method [261–64]; computationalism and nature [see 369–71]; and arguments about teleology’s relation to natural selection [in particular, 416]).
End quote. Brungardt also says that he “hope[s] to elaborate on some points of criticism of particulars of the book and its approach in later blog-posts.”
In related news, philosopher Rob Koons, physicist Steve Barr, and I had a very good exchange about the book at an “Author Meets Critics” session at the recent American Catholic Philosophical Association meeting in Minneapolis. It looks like the papers will appear in a forthcoming issue of American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly.
Recently I called attention to the thoughtful criticisms of the book raised by Nigel Cundy and by Bonald at Throne and Altar. I replied to some of Bonald’s criticisms in that post, and will post a response to Cundy within the next few days.