Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The thread about nothing

It’s open thread time.  There is no topic, which means everything is on topic.  Now is the time finally to raise that issue that you keep bringing up out of left field in other threads – in comments I keep deleting while cussing you out under my breath.  From the Manhattan Project to the Manhattan Transfer, from Brian De Palma to Pachamama, from frontal lobotomies to Kantian autonomy – go ahead and hash it out.  As always, keep it civil, classy, and free of trolling and troll-feeding.

Links to previous open threads can be found here.


  1. Cool.
    Working on a paper and looking for some thoughts. In Ed's book on Aquinas, he gives the following syllogism for the natural law account of morality:

    1) If I want what is good for me, then I ought to pursue what realized my natural ends and avoid what frustrates them.

    2) I do want what is good for me.

    3) Therefore I ought to pursue what realized my natural ends and avoid what frustrates them.

    I have a difficulty or question surrounding 1). Say I am put into a scenario where I need to choose between (1)acting contrary to my nature in order to preserve a good accorded by my nature and (2)not acting contrary to my nature and thus lose a good accorded to me by nature.

    So an example I have in mind here is a mob boss comes to me and demands I lie to the cops who are about to arrive and interrogate me about said mob boss's activities (let's stipulate that the questions are asked such that I have no outs other than lying or telling the truth). If I do not comply with the mob boss, he'll have Vinny come over and rip out my vocal cords.

    Now if the goal of moral action under the natural law is to achieve the ends set for me by my nature, it seems like there will be more violence done to those ends if I have my vocal cords ripped out than if I tell a lie. Yet, we hold that actions like lying are intrinsically evil and are never permissible.

    So my question is this: Is there some moral consideration beyond the fulfillment of our ends as humans* which would ensure the impermissibility of lying in this situation, or is the fulfillment of our ends truly the ultimate determinating factor, such that we should act to fulfill or preserve them, even if such action or preservation demands we perform some intrinsically perverse act?

    *I understand that lying would be detrimental in a spiritual way such that it perhaps outweighs any physical evils done to me, but the Thomistic tradition typically holds that we can prove actions like lying are wrong purely through natural reason, without appeal to supernatural activity or ends.

    1. Meaning, when there are conflicts with various ends of our parts and the whole , what wins and why? That is one of the reasons I am dubious of the trump card of always tell the truth because that is the proper end of speech...except the old challenge of what if that meant death of the hidden jews the nazi is looking for.

    2. Coincidentally reading a book on this theme

    3. What do you think of the qualification that not everyone has the right to the truth. So a thief who asks for my password can be lied to because he has no claim to that truth?

    4. Unknown,

      It is a qualification I reject (at least to the extent it is used to justify stating a deliberate falsehood with intent to deceive), but it is also somewhat irrelevant to my question. It should be kept in mind that the question itself is not about lying, for lying is just an example. Pick any other "Intrinsic evil vs. harm to my nature" scenario you want. The fundamental issue is whether we can perform an intrinsically evil act if it ultimately serves the attainment (or at least closer attainment than would be otherwise) of our ends as human beings.

    5. Ah, thanks for the clarification. I have heard that qualification before and I tend to reject it as well, as much as I might not want to, but am not sure WHY I reject it. But, now I see it was not really your point/ question. Is it fair to read your question as asking whether consequentialism can be justified if it leads to human flourishing?

    6. Well, your scenario is easy. Tell the police the truth and enter their witness protection program. Next question.

    7. Not quite, though you are in the ballpark. The question is more whether the natural law account given above collapses into consequentialism, though in this case, a consequentialism focused on attaining particular human ends rather than a global utility. The closest analogue I know of in the literature is W.D. Ross's moral theory, which incorporates both Aristotelian and quasi-consequentialist components.

    8. That makes a lot of sense. In natural law, is there a distinction or hierarchy of ends for man or is the final end of man singular? If the end of man is singular (contemplation of the good, union with God, "happiness" ect.)would this avoid the collapse, since, while unpleasant there is only ONE final end of man? If man has multiple ends of equal status does this lend itself to consequentialism in a way that it would not if man had only one final end? Thank you for you patience, I am very new to philosophy.

    9. I wonder if this is why Jesus remained silent during his trial. He always had a way of turning the horns of a dilemma back on his accusers; it seems possible that there are certain situations where silence is the only acceptable option.

    10. I have a suspicion you are right. As troubling as it is.

    11. How about you just shoot Vinny? ��. Seriously though, one of the problems I have with ethical dilemmas is that they frequently involve artificial moral quandaries. While thinking about "Sophie's Choice", I concluded that the minimal moral action was to refuse to cooperate with the sick Nazi scumbucket. The better choice would be to try to kill him.

    12. Don't ignore the role of God and our mortality in this picture. Vinny can only destroy your body, but God can destroy both your body and your soul. Remember, it is better to enter heaven with one eye than to go down to hell with both eyes intact.

  2. I am currently reading James Ross’ Thought and World. It is very interesting so far. He talks about conceivability and imaginability as being poor indicators of real possibility (or impossibility). He speaks of “overflow necessities” (which I understand to mean necessary properties that follow on account of other properties even if we are not aware of their grounding) quite a bit as being the reason that conceivability and imaginability are poor indicators of possibility.

    My question is, does the concept of overflow necessities threaten the validity of Cosmological Arguments for the existence of God? Perhaps existential inertia is one such overflow necessity. Even though we conceive of a thing’s form and matter as needing an external uniting cause, perhaps their union is sufficiently explained by their own nature even if it is conceivable how that is so. What are your thoughts?

  3. Replies
    1. It seems like what he means is that we always refer to the "truth" ABOUT something. IT's kinda like Socrates in "Menos" when trying to get to the bottom of what virtue is. Listing components of virtue does not define virtue just as listing truths does not "explain" what truth IS. So is seems like he is saying something similar but I am not sure what.

  4. I have one question I'll throw out there. I'm not interested in getting into debate, so I'll state all my concerns in this post. So, is it possible to interpret Aquinas in line with Molinism? Does he ever clearly defend Augustine in that we always follow the strongest impulse (the proemotio physica, causa prima, or motor primus)? With Molinism, God knows some people will choose hell in every situation they could be placed. He creates them anyway. I have no problem with that. But with Augustine you have the situation where the Father doesn't try to save all his children. It's clearly better even in a moral sense for everyone to go to heaven. If you were to give grace to those in your family, you certainly would give them all efficient grace, right? Thanks (always learning)

  5. I'm a long time reader of this blog. I used to be a new atheist, influenced by the likes of Richard Dawkins, thinking that modern science had buried God and it undeniably led to the adoption of a materialistic view of the human being.

    I'm no philosopher myself, but thinking and reading about the problem of consciousness and other issues with reductionist accounts of the mind was the reason I started doubting this worldview. Later, reading some things from David Bentley Hart I realized that even the famous new atheist rebuttals of the traditional arguments for God's existence were mostly aimed at straw men, so they at least were not as plainly stupid as I thought.

    Finally, I found your blog and your writings helped me articulate to my own self the problems of the materialist account of the mind and I also saw that there are plenty and strong arguments for the existence of God, that there are strong positive arguments for the immaterial and eternal nature of at least some part of our minds.

    Now, if anyone's still reading my rambling, here's the issue:

    I'm still unsure whether I'm certain about the key truths Ed and like minded philosophers defend, much less about more specific claims like the truth of Christianity, Catholicism etc and as I'm posting this I'm undergoing a spiritual crisis, full of existential agony. Has anyone here undergone this (perhaps I'm being stupid since probably everyone has) and if yes, how did you guys deal with it?

    Thanks so much in advance both for reading and for any possible replies and advice.

    1. I’ve been there before.

      My suggestion is to tune everything out about whether or not God exists and focus on studying philosophy.

      At least, that’s what worked for me. Once I stopped obsessing over the question the answer flowed more naturally as an outcome of my studies.

      By the way, the ‘key truths’ you speak of is vague. If you were to mention a few of them, it would be helpful.

      As for Christianity, I’d suggest focusing on the God Question first, as most people are more open to the possibility of Divine Revelation once they believe that God exists.

    2. To supplement what Tulkas said, I would also keep two things in mind:

      One is the fallacy of objections. Just because you find an objection you cannot respond to does not mean your view is false (for there could be ten unanswerable objections to atheism). The whole project of modern philosophy is one of skepticism and tearing down, whereas classical philosophy is about building up a system of well founded beliefs. Finding a leak in the roof is not the same as realizing you have built a house of cards.

      Also, I would keep Pascal’s Wager in mind. You do not have to be 100% certain of your beliefs, but if you feel like there is even a significant chance that God exists (greater than 10% say), you are much better acting as if He exists than if He does not. If God is the source of your existence, you do not want to chance not being thankful for that and honoring Him appropriately.

      Now, what specific philosophical issues concern you? And what specific historical considerations about Christianity/Catholicism concern you? I would love to help any way I can.

      I will say a prayer for your faith and that you grow in your love for truth.

    3. Congratulations! Getting intellectual information from blogs, books, Internet, etc is good and all, but you need to talk to someone in person. How to find that person might not be an easy thing. Try talking to a local priest but be aware that they are fallible men too and you might find a good one, or, unfortunately, you might not. If you can find a local priest from the Fraternal Society of Saint Peter, you'll increase your odds of finding the right person.

    4. I have an intellectual access to the faith as well, but I would not recommend looking at the faith from a purely philosophical stance. The faith is more, and it is supernatural. It is a gift from God, and a virtue. Even if you understood every last detail of the Catholic faith, you wouldn't have it. You can only have the faith if God grants it to you.

      So my advice is the following:

      Pray. Even if it doesn't feel right, prayer is our access we have to God. You do not even need to be certain that there is a God, he will hear you anyway. Ask him for guidance, ask him for the gift of faith. You can tell him of your problems. Don't expect an immediate solution, God works not like a request fulfilling automaton.
      Ask also Mary for help. She is the most powerful intercessor we have, and nothing you ask of God through her will be denied. She is a loving mother, and she will surely help you.

      Also I would recommend to seek personal dialogue with someone deeply rooted in the faith. Don't (PLEASE!!!!) go to your local Catholic parish. The chances that the priest is a heretic, are very high. Instead, look for a place where the Traditional Latin Mass is offered. Talk to the priest there.

      And lastly, attend Catholic worship. Go to a TLM, pray the Divine Office (there is a marvelous website that organizes the texts according to each day:, pray the Rosary. Those things may really help you since they make an impression on a sensual level.

    5. I have (multiple times, actually). First, I'm so sorry for the *psychological* pain you're experiencing. It is probably the most unpleasant thing I ever experienced, by quite a bit, so I really empathize. I'm not sorry that you're struggling with these issues, but for the attendant feelings.

      I echo most of the other advice, with small modifications that it's perhaps best not to get into.

      But in particular: I think it's *very* important to find somebody to talk to. Getting stuck in your own head with this stuff is incredibly isolating. So I mean three different things by this.
      (1) Force yourself to keep doing ordinary things with people. Go bowling with a friend even if you desperately want instead to stay home reading philosophy papers or staring at the wall.

      (2) If at all possible, find somebody smart who you trust to talk to *about this* -- a local pastor or priest, friend, or somebody informed in your life, if there is somebody.

      (3) I also personally found it super helpful to carry on email conversations. I have an incredibly patient friend who's philosophically sophisticated. Every day or two I would send him long descriptions of the arguments my mind was hung up on (and not infrequently my misery), and he would send me thoughtful and carefully reasoned replies. This conversation, in one instance, went on for six months, but really, really helped. It helped get me out of mental ruts when nothing else would have. I didn't always agree with him, of course, but then I could say so. I'll always be grateful.

      And yes, pray.

      Substantively -- well, I don't know where you are, but for me, arguments both Catholic (Ed's posts on Rosenberg, e.g.) and Protestant (Greg Bahnsen and James Anderson, e.g.) highlighting the incoherence of competing world views *and* those highlighting the coherence of the Christian one helped me a lot. But I don't know exactly where you are.

      Blessings and prayers.

    6. Yes, everyone has went through issues like that that, many times.

      1- I agre with Scott on the "fallacy of objections". Keep in mind that you do not have to know how to respond to every single objection out there in order to know something is true. You also do not always need to know *how* or *why* something is the case in order to know *that* it is the case.
      Also do keep in mind that rational belief does not in any way require 100% certainty or precision. It's not true, and in any case would be untenable for life. It's perfectly reasonable to follow inferences to the best explanation, probabilistic assessments, that which seems plausible, etc. Avoid "epistemic anxiety" - it is irrational.

      2- Related, but keep in kind that as human beings, our degrees of belief can vary from time to time; these variations do not reflect your real epistemic positions. For instance, there are days in which emotions get the best of me, I am shocked at some things, confused, or whatever, and my belief in God lowers (or sometimes it is raised), but I know this is not indicative of my "real", epistemic belief. The fact that you are not a strict rationalist 100% of the time or that your beliefs sometimes vary because of emotions or whatever does NOT mean that your reason isn't trustworthy, or that your core beliefs and justifications aren't solid.

      3- do keep in contact with other people and try not to isolate yourself. If possible, find some people with whom to discuss these things.

      4- keep studying the philosophy and try to enjoy it. As a very convinced theist and Catholic who spent years reading this stuff (like many others here), I think it's great that you are opening your mind to what I believe is the truth. Feser's work is really good. Don't just go for the hardest or most technical books though, there are some great books which are very accessible and that can help you to make sense of things without simultaneously overwhelming you. If I may recomend:
      "How Reason Leads to God" by Joshua Rasmussen. This is one of the best popular books on the subject imo; Josh is a great philosopher and he also anticipates many objections (including some expert ones) and I think you should really, really read this book.
      "Who designed the designer?" by Michael Augros. Augros is a thomist and this book is a very nice and accessible defense of the classical thomistic argument for the existende of God. The way he argues for the inteligence of the first cause is also very good and easy to follow.

      TECHNICAL: google Alexander Pruss's article "Leibnizian cosmological arguments" for a brilliant, expert defense of leibnizian cosmological arguments for God. Pruss is a genius and his work is really good; it is very technical though, and you can skip parts you do not understand. This one is if you want some expert, state of the art discussion of some of these topics; you don't need it in order to understand and accept the arguments, but it's there if you ever feel like exploring it.

      "C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea" by Victor Reppert. Since you're interested in pilosophy of mind, this book is a very good defense of Lewis's argument from reason and its relationship with theism. You should enjoy it.

      Of course, read Ed's philosophy of mind. It's the best introduction to the subject.

      It's easier to assess the plausibility of Christianity after one is convinced of theism (in particular because one of the best argumets for Christianity imo is that it makes the best sense of theism and of man's relationship with God, and how something like the Incarnation, and the idea of theosis, are intrinsically plausible if theism is true).

      God bless and good luck with everything

    7. First of all, I would like to thank everyone who responded. Now, to some specific responses:


      They key truths that I'm talking about are the existence of God and the eternal part of the human being. The uncertainty about those makes life seem meaningless. More on that in my following responses.


      You're right about the fallacy of objections, I guess. The issue is that although I can easily push those thoughts aside as the fallacy of objections when it's about everyday issues, like whether I can prove if my mom loves me. When it comes to issues like God, because they're more abstract and I tend to think abstractly, I feel the need to think everything through and have all the answers. Yet, your point is taken.

      Concerning the philosophical issues that may trouble me there are some specific ones that I'm gonna mention and one that permeates the rest.

      First, we have the issue of materialism and the possibility of the immaterial aspects of thought. I could always, intuitively, grasp something like the hard problem of consciousness, I've come to see the contradictions and weaknesses in the materialist point of view and have seen some strong arguments for the non material aspects of mental reality. Namely, what Ed calls the "clear and distinct argument" as a more evident one and the problem of abstract concepts to the more, well, abstract side. My issues is that because those subjects are so complex, complicated and mysterious and given the number of smart philosophers that accept some sort of materialism, it's easy for a non philosopher like me to think I can easily be wrong in ways I can't see right now.

      Second, the subject of God. I've come to the point where I can see stupid new atheist objections for what they are -strawmen, but I'm still not convinced that the most powerful theistic arguments are that solid. And that's connected to the issues I said permeates the rest: my doubt about the capacity of reason to get to the absolute reality. That our minds can simply never see outside their own inherent limits so they wouldn't know it if they were wrong in ways above their comprehension. Now, a good counter argument for that is to show it to be contradictory by saying that even supporting the anti reason position (sorry, I'm not so adept at philosophy I don't remember the name of that position) we use some arguments that presuppose it,therefore it's self contradictory. But on the other hand if the anti reason position happens to be true my contradiction doesn't matter.

      @T N and Anonymous,

      I live in an Eastern Orthodox country, there aren't many Catholic Churches here anyways, I don't even know the different types you mentioned. Thank you both though for your advice.


      Thanks for your advice. The issue is I don't have such a person in my circle, that's why I posted here.


      I responded to Scott who mentioned the fallacy of objections. Another issue is that coming to contact with some of Feser's and other similar philosopher works, they all seem to make the claim that in such issues you can establish truth with a certainty similar to mathematical demonstrations, so that's another reason I don't deal with them like everyday life and practical logic. Now, of course you can say that although they may be established like that, it's possible for me as person to be certain in a similar way to the practical stuff, but I'm still confused. Sorry, it's late here, I don't know if this made much sense.

      I'll try to read some of your suggested writings. I did read Ed's Philosophy of Mind, but not all levels of reading are the same. I'm gonna have to read it with more care and trying to understand everything. It's just that this psychological state is making me weak.

      I don't have a way to thank everyone enough! I would enjoy any further discussion.

    8. Unknown, well there is a point where you do have to trust your rational faculties to a degree. As you say, your concerns do not apply only to God, but to every aspect of knowledge. In that case you can even doubt the law of non-contradiction and the Principle of Sufficient Reason. But denying these principles brings all knowledge into question as well.

      I would recommend you read the second Chapter of Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton where he talks about skepticism.

      As for smart atheists, my recommendation would be to read their objections and good classical theist responses to them. I have found that they all boil (implicitly) down to a denial of the principle of sufficient reason. The more you read, the more unimpressed you will be.

      Finally, a good thought is to once in a while take a break from philosophy and look at other evidence. Sometimes reading about Our Lady of Fatima, the life of Joan of Arc, etc. makes me feel more sure in my belief in God than rational arguments do. It is partly an issue of temperament. Sometimes when you focus on one philosophical point for too long it is like hearing a word that you use everyday that all of the sudden just sounds strange to you. That is when you need to take a break, drink some bourbon, and live your life for a while. Then come back when you feel more recharged.

    9. Scott,

      Yes, that's my issue. Extreme skepticism about the possibility of knowledge. I haven't read anything from Chesterton yet, I'll read what you suggested tonight, given that it addresses what seems to be my main intellectual problem.

      Your point about taking some time off has merit, but I think I've done that for a long time, it's time for me to think hard, despite the pain. You know, I used to lurk a bit on the classical theism forum, but I saw now that sadly, it's gone. It would be cool if there was still a place like that to discuss.

    10. Dear Unknown,

      Boy, the issues you mention really resonated with my own past questions! Including the part about being really intimidated by all the smart people who disagree.

      I wanted to point out one thing that a friend said to me that's relevant to one of your points, namely the "if anti reason happens to be true my arguments don't matter" thing.

      That, of course, is true, but do keep in mind that that's *always* an out for *any* argument. Any argument anybody ever gives you -- say a proof of the Pythagorean theorem -- is really just a proof that "either Pythagorean holds or reason is invalid" (i.e., rational skepticism).

      I don't know if that helps, and maybe it's obvious, but for me it was somehow clarifying.

      That's the main point I wanted to make. The other would just be: *if* theism of a type like Christianity is true, then you *can* trust your reasoning capabilities on things like this, insofar as they're telling you God exists (although they are imperfect and fallen, of course).

      If theism is *not* true, then indeed, of course, it's not clear why you should be able to trust your reasoning capabilities about much of anything (the various arguments you're talking about). But that should (supra) be taken more or less as an argument for theism (either theism or rational skepticism, per above, thus theism).

      I hope any of that made sense.

    11. Anon (Unknown?),
      yes that sounds familiar. Problem is when I was in this state I could, like maybe you do too, see that my concern is essentially a non-objection and it is self-refuting. Sadly though that doesn´t release one from this state of mind. As Scott has suggested though when we reach such a point, then the best solution is to take a step back, because if we are at a point where we have to doubt our ability to reason or gain knowledge, then there is no possible discussion to be had. But getting beyond this point in most cases seems to me more an emotional, than a rational issue.

    12. I think skepticism of the kind that can haunt people is, honestly, more like an emotional or psychological problem than any real rational concern. I mean, honestly, can you doubt that the principle of non-contradiction is true? I can't; I know that with 100% certainty. I just see it is true. Can I explain how I see it? No, but it is equally certain to me *that* I see it is really true.
      Hence my point about remembering we do not need to know how or why something is the case in order to know *that* it is the case.
      Other things we can also know very clearly, even if one could in principle doubt them. For instance, the existence of the external world, or the reliability of your memories. You could, as a philosophical exercise, doubt these things. But can you *really* doubt them? Do you really not know that most of your memories are true, or that the world is not 5 minutes old?

      We know that we can know things intuitively. Even the prospect of fallibility in some matters should not stop us from trusting strong epistemic seemings.

      Really, I think skepticism is due mostly to some form of emotional or psychological issue, which creates epistemic anxiety. If you get to a point where you are coming up with bizarre objections or skeptical scenarios and then trying to devise answers for all of those, take a step back, and reflect on things you actually know to be true or stuff that you take to be very plausible - basic things. Recognize that you do have the power to know things, as these examples demonstrate. Realize that, in knowing they are true, you do not necessarily know individual responses to every objection that might exist against them - but this does not affect your knowledge, because from the fact that you know such and such things, you can a fortiori know that these objections are wrong, even if you do not know why or how exactly they are wrong. Realize that it is the same for everything else. Just do your best at trying to find out what the truth is, but don't question your capacity for knowledge, and don't be skeptical over things that seem very plausible just because you don't happen to know the hows or whys of how objections to it can be refuted, etc.

  6. To add more to my previous post. Ed, in his post "the road from atheism" talks about the false dichotomy of "head vs heart" and how his heart was in the right place when he actually realized the rationality of the arguments for God's existence. But as for me, for now, my head and my hearts aren't in sync. I can rationally see the strength of a lot of the arguments, but not to the extent that would make me contemplate God and all that.

    Sorry, if this is too personal, I know this comment section is not my diary, but I hope I may get some good advice here that will actually make some sense.

    1. Hi!
      First of all, you are not alone, a significant portion of the people who comment here (including me) have undergone such moments. Helps with the empathy.
      Now to your problem: Can you name any views in particular that you are unsure about? I give you an example from me: I am absolutely sure that there is a necessary ground and that it has something like an intellect. My conviction now comes less from a certain argument, but more from the sum of certain arguments plus the acceptance of principles which I regard as common sense e.g. essentialism, powers, teleology and intentionality, PSR etc. which make no sense in an atheistic worldview. You can add to that the explanatory weakness of a naturalistic worldview. What I have changed my mind about though is on the topic of divine simplicity, where I didn´t reject it, but that every attempt to make it understandable for our finite minds I have seen yet has some important flaws, which led me to fully embrace negative theology.
      So I don´t expect ever to be settled when it comes to a number of issues. YOu will quickly understand why, though I regard several discussions in philosophy as superflous, many are genuine and unresolvable to us (time, the nature of the divine, universals, mind and matter, free will, existence and what not). The thing is though that when it comes to such broad things, like the existence of a necessary being,in my view the issue is much clearer.

      Your point about Christianity and Catholicism is well taken, but this is also where the area of expertise changes. Following Leo Strauss, philosophy and theology are overlapping, but both have exclusive areas. In my mind, a philosophical criticism of the Trinity is equally as useless as a rejection of divine simplicity because of bible thumping. What I want to say is that you are in here concerned with aspects of revelation and such you should look for Theologians and Historians in that area. I have always liked the work of Gary Habermas and the two books on miracles by Craig Keener. They have also the relevant bibliography to know how to continue if you are interested. Other works could be by epistemologists like Paul Moser, Trent Dougherty and Swinburne. Or you prefer the mystics. Others here are more familiar with them.
      Expect to continue changing your views though, my own readings of Gods work in todays life has greatly changed my perspective on how religions should be seen. But this comment is already too long.
      I hope I could help you, and remember that you are not alone. Ask, if I can help you any further.

    2. Hey Dominik,

      I answered to the answers on my previous posts and discussed the issues I have trouble with. If you want to comment, I would gladly read your opinion. As for your suggestions for writers on Christianity and Catholicism, I will check them out. But I'm still uncertain about issues more primary, like the existence of a spiritual reality and of God. See my post above for more details, if you're interested of course.

      Again, thanks for your response.

    3. Dominik writes:

      In my mind, a philosophical criticism of the Trinity is equally as useless as a rejection of divine simplicity because of bible thumping.

      Pointing out that the doctrine of the Trinity (DT) entails logical contradictions is in no measure "useless."

    4. Bill,

      The fact that you consider the doctrine of the Trinity to entail a logical contradiction shows exactly why philosophical criticism is useless against it. The doctrine is already recognized as a mystery that cannot be fully comprehended by us, so to say that it can't be fully comprehended by us is a pointless objection.

      Also, just because WE are incapable of fully comprehending something, it would be a blatant non-sequitur to then conclude that it is incomprehensible in itself.

      This is why philosophical criticism is useless.

    5. @Billy

      There's a difference between a logical inversion and something incomprehensible. The DT is an instance of the former, not the latter.

    6. Bill,
      The Trinity is not a hill I´m committed to die upon, so you won´t get a fiery defense from me. Further more I accept the possibility of the Apostles and the early church having misunderstood the implications, so I have sympathy to Christian Unitarians.
      What I´d answer though is that you are talking in a different category, to paraphrase Gyula Klima, you´re shouting "Checkmate!" in a Poker game. It´s really not like the problem you have mentioned is anything new, in fact with most of what you said, a Trinitarian would generally agree. We do have absolutely no idea what it means for God to be triune; we accept it because this is how we understand the revelation through Jesus. Now my other question would be in which way this revelation is less understandable to our monkey brain than other revelations, e.g. in other religions like Judaism or Islam or Hinduism, or the miracle claims all over the religious ( and non-religious) spectrum. Are those acts really more understandable to us? I doubt it. Perhaps you are a merely a philosophical theist/deist and reject the idea of God working miraculously. Then I´d answer that we´d have to investigate if that is tenable in light of the evidence. If it is not, as I´d claim, then we have something in God, which we can´t understand, perhaps in principle. And the next step would be to extent this ignorance to the metaphysical understanding of the Trinity. I agree that God necessarily is non-composite. If that excludes the Trinity I don´t know since it isn´t clear what Trinity means.
      People tend to think that God as "Pure Act" has made open to us a deep truth about Gods essence. It is clear to me that it is little more than an intellectual crutch, so that we can say anything about God and don´t have to fully rely on negative theology. It´s not like we can in any form understand what that really means. So if you want to criticize the Trinity on that basis, I´d say that you vastly overstate your case on two different occasions.

    7. Unitarianism is absolutely disgusting; Catholics must always be trinitarians, and in any case the Trinity is one of the most beautiful doctrines about God, and it is unsurprising that it is hard to comprehend.

      Furthermore, ironically enough I think the fact that the Trinity is such a mind-boggling and hard concept to grasp makes it implausible that it would come to be created and believed by most Christians if it hadn't really been revealed by God.

    8. @Dominik, you write:

      We do have absolutely no idea what it means for God to be triune; we accept it because this is how we understand the revelation through Jesus.

      But those who are not trinitarian disagree with the conclusions you draw from this "revelation." They, including yours truly, see nothing in the Scriptures necessitating a three-person godhead. I appreciate the fact that the DT is not a hill you're willing to die on. Regrettably, many others insist that I must confess a belief in something that is logically at odds with itself.

      Now my other question would be in which way this revelation is less understandable to our monkey brain than other revelations...

      And I would again reply that there's a vast difference between something incomprehensible and a contradiction. An 18th century person would, no doubt, find it incomprehensible how a person could speak into a handheld box and be heard through another handheld box on the other side of the world. But if said person were rational, he'd never accept that the boxes were capable of transmitting communication and incapable of transmitting in the same respect. If a beachball suddenly appears beside my PC as I'm typing this, I may never understand how it got there, but I'd never believe that a ball appeared and did not appear in the same respect. Big dif.

      Perhaps you are a merely a philosophical theist/deist and reject the idea of God working miraculously.

      I'm definitely a theist who believes in miracles. There's nothing logically contradictory about the Red Sea parting or the dead being raised. I don't understand how it was done, but so far nobody has demonstrated that belief in such things entails logical inversions.

      So, if all you're saying is that there are myriad things about God we don't understand, I'm on board. If you tell me that I'm going to the Pit because I don't affirm a contradiction, I'm off-board. And if an appeal to "mystery" is an acceptable "out" for trinitarians, then it is equally an out for modalists and unitarians. Sauce for the gander and all.

    9. I have never seen anyone successfully demonstrating that the Trinity is contadictory. Mysterious, yes; a contradiction? No. What is your argument, Bill?

    10. @Atno

      Since there are different versions of the Trinity, the argument will depend on the version affirmed.

      For composite unity trinities, it is alleged that the whole is God whereas the components are the persons. But since a component is but a fraction of the whole, then it cannot be asserted that each person is fully God, only fractionally so. The contradiction is then obvious: Each person is fully God and each person isn't fully God. This also applies to metaphysical composites of act/potency, essence/existence, and genus/species.

      Many trinitarians readily see that strict composition is problematic, so they rather defend some form of a genus/species Trinity (one in essence, three in person). But this is outright tritheism. There is one apple essence, but three instantiations (Fuji, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious) yield three apples. Three instantiations of the God essence yield three Gods, which again makes the contradiction obvious: There is one God and there are three Gods.

      Catholicism is more defensible in that it consistently denies real composition in the divine essence. It identifies personal distinction in subsistent relations yet identifies the relations as the divine essence (else the relations would be creatures). But if there is a real distinction in personhood and if each person is fully God, there must be a principle of commonality (PC) and a principle of distinction (PD) for each person must differ in some way in order to be distinct. In other words, what makes them common and what makes them distinct? The PC (what makes them God) is the divine essence, and if the distinction is the subsistent relation, and if the subsistent relation is also equivalent to the divine essence, then the argument reduces to PC=PD. And therein is the contradiction: What the persons have in common is identical with what they do not have in common (A=~A). The PC cannot in principle be the PD for that asserts that the very thing which makes the persons the same is what makes them different. That is no different than saying that it's possible for each person to be really distinct without differing in any way.

    11. Hi Bill,
      I´ll keep it short. I also haven´t yet figured out how to make the letters cursive.

      In the last couple of months I became heavily influenced by DB Hart and hence have taken more of a universalist route. I reject every kind of strong particularism and think that threatening others with hell is stupid and a good sign that the own position is flawed.
      What I´d argue is that we can put God´s divine acts and the Trinity in the same category of not understandable things for us. The church of course always maintained Gods unity and simplicity, which is why the DT becomes even less understandable. But it is clear that this fact has never been hidden, rather embraced. I also think that there is the danger of equivocating the meaning of triune and three.
      Like I said, I have sympathy for your position, since the Trinity isn´t anything one reaches with rationality. Where you and I would disagree though is when I take that to be evidence that we are not dealing with a philosophical, but rather revelatory issue, so that philosophical criticism is misguided.

    12. @Dominik

      Thanks for your charitable reply and thanks for the interaction.

      All the best.

  7. What's the best realist critique of Kant? I was unimpressed by Coffey, and have been reading Hildebrand and Seifert.

    1. The state of modern philosophy?

    2. Gaven Kerr has a fairly recent paper on Kant:

    3. Anon,
      there is a thread on the old forum, maybe you find useful resources there:

  8. Hi anyone knowledgeable in Thomson,

    How should Thomistic metaphysics be applied to explain Near Death Experiences and Out of Body experiences (eg some claimed to have experienced it while meditating)?


    Johannes from Asia

    1. Oops, I meant Thomism, not Thomson. Sorry for the error.

    2. There’s a good paper on scihub:

      Near–death experiences. A theological interpretation

      by Harm Goris

  9. Another question:

    While God’s existence is logically necessary and metaphysically necessary given the existence of any entity that is contingent, conditioned, composited, or mutable, God existing as a Trinity does not seem to be such a necessity. Does that then mean:

    1. God existing in the mode of Trinity s a contingent truth?
    (eg God could have instead exists as “One God in five Persons” instead)

    2. It is possible that God is actually existing as One God in five Persons (or insert other number), just that so far God reveals only three out of the five Persons to us?


    1. "Capable of division" doesn't equate to "contingent"

    2. Well since the Trinity has no real relation to Creation, and since Creation is only related to God by His power (not His personal relations, although that statement is qualified), the Trinity is a true mystery. If there were more or less than three persons, we would only know by God’s revelation.

      That being said, Aquinas holds that these are necessary personal relations. That they are necessary is evident once you realize that the nature of God is necessary, and that the persons of the Trinity are subsisting relations of the Divine Nature to itself. We can not comprehend God, and we have no creatively analogy for a thing having a real relation with itself, but apparently this is the case with the infinite nature of God (the only insight we can get is the strangeness of comparing mathematical infinities to themselves, but that is still an imperfect analogy). Therefore, if God is three persons, He is necessarily so. Given revelation tells us of three persons, it seems not in keeping with God’s nature to reveal something false to us. If there are more Persons, why not tell us so? Why give Your Church the impression that there are only three? Secondly, the psychological analogy for the Trinity demands that there be three persons, and this seems to be the analogy that God wants us to keep in mind given revelation (the Son is the Word of the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the Love if the Father and the Son).

      I hope that is helpful. Read the first part of the Summa Theologiae on New Advent (Questions 27 - 43 I believe) and the blog readingthesumma (the relevant posts) for very helpful details.

    3. Insofar as we are in the image of God, it is because of our rational nature. God being rational, He possesses something akin to Intellect and Will. Relating to himself, He knows Himself. As the subject of this predication, He is the Father. As the object, he is the Word, since products of the Intellect are expressed humanly in words, or Concepts. The Word is thus the only-conceived of the Father.

      The Will desires what is good. God being the ultimate good, God desires Himself and His Word. And so His Will proceeds out toward the desired and returns it to Himself. As subject of this predicate, He is still the Father; as object, He is Love, or the Spirit.

      So we say, the Son is "conceived" and the Spirit "proceeds." If the Father and the Word are One, then logically, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and all Three are One.

      At least, that's how I understand things.

    4. Dearest Statistician,

      Just wanted to say I've always enjoyed your comments (both here and elsewhere). You're a well-read, thoughtful fella. You've helped me many times.

      Thank you and God bless.

    5. @anonymous

      "Capable of division" doesn't equate to "contingent"

      Yes, it does. Anything capable of division is composite which means that its existence is contingent on divine conservation.

  10. Three questions:

    1) Is it possible for a pope to authoritatively command the faithful to commit an immoral act? For example, instead of declaring a day of fasting, could there be a scenario where a pope declares the faithful must pay a tithe to Planned Parenthood or suffer excommunication?

    2) Assuming scenario 1 is possible, are Catholics bound to obey the perverse commands of a pope?

    3) Can a pope authoritatively command the faithful to vote for a particular political candidate?


    1. I think (1) is possible, in the sense that the pope would appear to me to be exercising his authority. I think that in a deeper sense, a pope promoting an immoral act would have acted outside his actual authority, but this may be impossible for me to prove at the time.
      2) If I believe an act is immoral, I am obliged not to do it, even if the pope is ordering me to.
      3) In general the pope has no expertise (no charism) in political matters. But one can imagine a situation where one candidate intends to commit very serious evils, and has publicly proclaimed this, and another has promised to prevent such evils. I think that the Pope could rule on such a clear situation. But you will notice that in western democracies there are usually multiple issues to consider, and the pope would be unwise to endorse a candidate, because he would appear to be endorsing the whole political program of the candidate.

    2. With regards to 3, I certainly believe a Pope could command us to not vote for a pro-abortion politician. As a Catholic, I believe it is sinful to vote for a pro-abortion politician. That would be a general statement without endorsing a specific candidate. We have to be careful when we say that the Pope has no charism in politics. While this is true, we must also remember that the state exists in service of the Church. And obviously religious and secular life have considerable overlap. Therefore, in merely exercising his authority as a religious figure, he is necessarily going to be touching on political matters. But hopefully he is touching on clear cut matters and not micro-managing every genuinely prudential judgement that politicians make.

    3. ad 1) First of all, no priest, bishop, or Pope can command any Catholic to pay money to any organization. We are obligated to help the Church even with financial means, but that is very general and broad.
      Then no, he can't make a Catholic commit an immoral act. He has no authority to do that (as Pope), and would commit thus a grave sin - the faithful is obligated to not commit any immoral act since that would also be sin.

      3) I think he can. Popes have done that many times in Church history, only at those times there were no candidates, but Emperors and Kings. The Pope told the people which king to follow, or he told them which one not to follow. I think this is a fair exercise of the Pope's moral authority as well as his secular power.
      Back in the day, you would go to your local pastor and ask him which candidate you should vote for. He would tell you, and you would do so.

    4. Addendum: The Popes also decreed that any Catholic who joins a Masonic lodge or a Communist/Socialist/Marxist/Social democratic party is automatically excommunicated.

    5. Regarding question 3, it seems like Church officials have authority to command the faithful to support or oppose specific kings/politicians. There are plenty of examples of popes or bishops anathematizing freemasonry, communism, nazism, etc. But it also seems like this is a fallible power. It doesn't seem implausible to imagine a future Pope Francis II threatening excommunication if Catholics vote for a specific candidate that is insufficiently pro-environment or pro-immigrant. "Support the Green New Deal or be denied communion!" It seems highly unlikely and very scandalous, but it wasn't that long ago that the Tridentine Mass was banned, so there's definitely precedent for extreme idiocy by Church officials.

      In such a case, would a Catholic be required to support a manifestly bad politician? If Catholics can exercise their own prudential judgment on which politicians best support the common good and are free to ignore popes that are ignorant of civil society in far off nations, doesn't this imply anathemas against fremasonry, communism, nazism, etc are not binding? It's a riddle that's got me puzzled.

    6. Of course the pope can command an immoral act; he's a sinner like everyone else. Papal infallibility just means that the Church can't teach error, and in certain rare instances the pope can speak for the Church.

    7. I worked with a freemason in the 80s, in a country town, and his organisation had a ceremony in which it invoked both angels and devils. I had the opportunity one day to read through the text of that ceremony. So it seems to me that freemasonry does involve spiritual beliefs at odds with Catholicism - we would not invoke devils. If so, the Church is right to ban membership.

    8. @T N:
      Of course the Pope is a sinner. But he is the Pope. The question is whether he in his office can command immoral acts. And the simple answer is: no. It is not within his authority to do so. If by "can" you mean if he is physically capable of doing so, then yes, of course. But if by "can" you mean if he has the moral/political authority to legitimately command immoral acts, then no. This is not in his job description.

      The Holy Ghost was not given to the Popes that they may invent new doctrines, but that they can defend the faith (Vatican I). So God has not given the Pope the authority to command immoral acts – and since Catholics are obligated to oppose immoral laws, there is no way the Pope can command someone to act immorally.

  11. Sorry just one more question for now:

    God is not conditioned by time and hence He knows all the freewill decisions we will be making in our future, to a small extent like we who exist outside a story book can know the outcome of the characters by jumping to the last few pages of the book, even though those characters would not know their future outcomes because the future is still open and unfixed and non-existent for them in the middle of the book. So God knows whether a specific individual would end up being elected or rejected in the end. God knows the judgment He would pass on this individual on Judgment Day after the future general resurrection of the dead. God also knows all the divine “interventions” He would bring about in the future of that petson’s life before the person comes to the end.

    Is it possible or impossible for God to suppress such a knowledge of a person’s actual destiny in that person’s future? Or is it impossible, just like it seems impossible for God to will Himself - and everything along with Him - out of existence?

    1. If God is immutable, He cannot suppress anything. Suppressing implies a change.

  12. What is the Catholic position on Bernard's view that we should only love ourselves for God's sake and not our own?

    Are Catholics obliged to have God as the only formal reason for self-love, or is that extreme position a theologoumenon?

    1. Bernard thinks that pure love of self for God's sake is literally not possible for anyone until the resurrection, although some martyrs and the blessed can approximate it before then. 'Obligation' is not the right term here.

      When we are talking about charity, specifically, there is nothing extreme about Bernard's position, though, although not everyone would agree with all the details; it's the universal view. Love of self and love of neighbor are only genuinely acts of the virtue of charity to the extent that self and neighbor are loved as finite goods participating in the infinite good of God. And Catholics are obliged to treat charity as the primary and architectonic virtue and to cultivate charity.

    2. @Brandon,

      When Bernard talks about the fourth degree of love, he explicitly states that one loves oneself solely for God's sake, not for one's own sake anymore at all.

      This isn't just developing multiple aspects of love, such that one ALSO loves oneself for God's sake AS WELL AS loves oneself for one's own sake, but rather it's a negation of formal self-love for self's sake altogether.

      I would also disagree that the universal view amounts to Bernard's view - to recognise oneself and others as finite creations of God and to love oneself and others in light of that is actually a fulfillment of what we already do. For example, we know loving ourselves and others formally for their own sake is good, and that what we love has value and is worth loving. The virtue of charity, in the supernatural context of Revelation, only adds the additional truth that we are God's creatures and that it is God's will for us to exercise our nature's charity, and we also supernaturally love ourselves and our neighbor with regards to eternity and God's providence as well.

      But none of that amounts to ceasing self-love formally for self's sake - in fact, loving ourselves and others for their own sake IS inherently good, and is thus part of God's will as well.

    3. I don't know what you mean by simultaneously loving oneself for God's sake and loving oneself for one's own sake in this context, given that you can't have two ultimate ends.

      The virtue of charity, in the supernatural context of Revelation, only adds the additional truth that we are God's creatures and that it is God's will for us to exercise our nature's charity, and we also supernaturally love ourselves and our neighbor with regards to eternity and God's providence as well.

      No, it is very definitely not simply additive, on any serious theory of charity; this is like saying that prudence just adds a few truths to the other virtues. Charity, like prudence, is an architectonic virtue; it informs and orders all other virtues.

    4. Trying to puzzle out your meaning a bit more, it sounds like you are interpreting St. Bernard as a quietist. Quietism is certainly wrong, but I don't think Bernard can in fact be treated as such. First, because Bernard is explicit that the perfect form of the fourth degree of love is impossible for us in this life -- in this life all our loves are marred by death to some extent; second, because this is inconsistent with Bernard's analogies (drop of water in wine, red-hot iron, sunlit air); third, because Bernard does not hold that even in the fourth degree we stop loving ourselves, but only that we love ourselves wholly for God's sake; and fourth, the contrast with loving God for God's sake (which Bernard also calls 'loving God as God') is loving God because He is a benefactor, which is not how you seem to be interpreting Bernard.

    5. 1) How exactly can't one have two reasons for loving / love one's ultimate end under two aspects?

      This would only be impossible if we are solely focusing on the act of loving God for His own sake - but in that case there is no contradiction with loving God for your own sake as well, it's just a different act we're considering.

      In any case, desiring God for the sake of one's own happiness is perfectly natural, since that just is desiring one's own ultimate happiness, and this self-love is of the natural law.

      2) Yep, my bad. I realised that part was poorly worded later.

      In any case, what I wanted to express but failed to do so is essentially nature and grace. Grace doesn't destroy nature, but presupposes it and builds on it in order to perfect it. In the same way, supernatural charity does not destroy natural charity, but perfects it.

    6. @Brandon,

      Regarding your second comment which I only just now saw:

      1) In that case, if Bernard isn't a quietist solely because he didn't think it would happen in this life, he would be an eschatological quietist - espousing quietism as our final end, and one that cannot be reached before death or the Second Coming.

      2) The analogies he uses (forgetting one's own nature, taking on the color and savor of wine, nothing merely human remaining in man etc) are pretty strong, even if they aren't a neoplatonic henosis.

      I would personally call this semi-quietism then, and even if it isn't as radical as quietism, that doesn't mean it's not mistaken.

      3) That's like the difference between pelagianism and semi-pelagianism. Sure, Bernard doesn't claim we won't love ourselves at all and will absolutely and solely love only God. But what he does is essentially deny we will have any true self-love, because we will only formally love ourselves for God's sake, not our own.

      The matter of self-love is still there, but the form is gone. We will love ourselves, but only for God - as an extension of our love for God.

      4) I think Bernard, in the third degree of love, is describing it akin to how we love ourselves or another person for their own sake, not just our own, as an extension of our self-love.

    7. One can have any number of reasons for loving someone; but the only reason that matters in this context is what reason is the foundational one constituting the object of love, and in particular: is your actual love based on God or yourself?

      Desiring God for the sake of one's own happiness is indeed quite natural; Bernard himself says that -- it's the first degree of love, which is not first because Bernard is disparaging it as bad but because it is merely the point at which we all can start. It's just not the completion. It's natural the way loving one's mother because she provides food and security is natural; there's nothing wrong with it, but it's a very incipient kind of love.

      Quietism is generally rejected mostly because it is inconsistent with the virtue of hope; by definition this isn't an issue if we aren't capable of loving only God until the virtue of hope is passed. But again, I think it's simply incorrect to interpret Bernard as a quietist at all.

      Yes, the analogies are strong, but they are also extremely popular as analogies for theosis/divinization/deification/union-with-God; Bernard (who is getting them from other sources, like Athanasius) is far from being the only one who uses them. I don't have time to check at the moment, but I think Aquinas uses both the red-hot iron and the sunlit air analogies in various places, for instance.

      Bernard doesn't use words like 'formally' in describing these things, nor does he divide up self-love by matter and form; this is your interpretation. I don't think it is an accurate reading, and, again, it seems inconsistent with several of his analogies -- it makes no sense to say of a red-hot iron that it is materially iron but that its form as iron is gone and has been replaced by the form of fire. What Bernard does talk about is God as our final object or as the motive of love.

      The third degree of love is when we begin to love God because He is God, and thus lovable in Himself, rather than because He benefits us, which involves loving Him because we love other things. The sequence is, a bit roughly:

      (1) loving God because we recognize that it is necessary for loving ourselves appropriately;
      (2) loving God because we have experienced His goodness to us;
      (3) loving God because He is God and thus, as goodness itself, He Himself is our good;
      (4) loving God because He is God in such a way that other good is loved only in God as our good.

      The first two are loving God for things other than God; the latter two are loving God for and as God. In the first three love of God involves some relation to our self-love, increasingly attenuated; in the fourth, God is loved because He is God, and this love is beyond all other love.

    8. I don't know enough to speak on this technically. I can speak to my own experience as I see the concept of "loving ones self for god's sake" I struggle with bi-polar tendencies. I can REALLY work myself up to self hatred. In these times, I try to love myself for another's sake (God's, children, wife) because it is the only thing that keeps me from falling into the darkness. If I loved myself for my own "sake", but lost all value in my own "sake" that could get scary fast. This is not a philosophical response but merely how I see the sentiment play out in my own life.

    9. @Brandon,

      1) I see I unfortunately lead the point away from self-love to love of God any why God is loved. Oh well. The main problem I have is with the idea that we should love ourselves only for God's sake, and not for our own. Bernard explicitly says that, instead of saying that we can love ourselves for our own sake but that we should also love ourselves for God's sake. If we expand this notion universally, we get the consequence that every act and state of self-love shouldn't be for our own sake, but we should love ourselves for God only.

      If we keep this notion only within the bounds of desiring God for our ultimate happiness, this entails we shouldn't love ourselves by desiring God for our sake, but only to desire God for God's sake.

      I guess one could say desiring God for God's sake should be foundational, and that wouldn't be as problematic because loving God for your own sake isn't excluded by that. In fact, the reason we often love other people is for their own sake, and fundamentally so even if we also love them for our own sake at the same time and with equal intensity, and in that sense it's perfectly understandable how we can desire God for His own sake foundationally.

      2) Bernard does not disparage love of God for our own sake because it's obviously natural and thus not sinful, that is true, but the problem is he doesn't preserve the first degree of love when arriving at the fourth, but tosses it away altogether. He is saying that in the end we won't have any true self-love, for our own sake. The first loves disappear, instead of staying in any way at all.

      3) Even if Bernard isn't an actual quietist because he believes things that are inconsistent with what quietism is, that doesn't mean that what he says is completely unproblematic, or doesn't share some error related to quietism that isn't intrinsically quietist. We can call his idea with another name that isn't related to quietism, to distinguish it that.

      4) Would you mind giving a source for where Athanasius uses those analogies? So far, I couldn't find it on Google Books, for example.I also tried searching for where Aquins used the drop in wine analogy, or red-hot iron analogy, and I couldn't find any instance where Aquinas used the red-hot iron analogy for theosis, and most instances where he mentions water in wine are about the Eucharist, and the only other instance is where Aquinas defends the Chalcedonian definition of two natures in Christ by saying that two things widely apart would end up disolving one thing, so the divine nature would disolve the human nature due it being infinitely greater.

      5) My use of form and matter were very loose. I wasn't meaning to say that this is what Bernard was going for, but rather to explicate that Bernard is saying that we will no longer love ourselves for our own sake.

      In other words, Bernard is saying we will no longer have self-love that is formally directed towards ourselves. The formal aspect, in that sense, is gone. Bernard may not have used those words and may not have fully developed the implications of his opinion, but these are the implications, and using words such as "formally" and "materially" in a loose manner, not in the context they are originally used, seemed like a good way to make a comparison.

      6) So the third degree of love is similar to how we love other people not just because we get some benefit from them, but for their own sake as well. (Though the benefit they give us, which shows they love us, may also nudge us towards loving them in this third degree fashion as well)

    10. I don't think this is a situation in which you can use a 'very loose' notion of form and matter; you are making a very precise claim, and now I have no idea whatsoever what you mean by 'formally directed towards ourselves'.

      I am, again, not presently in a place where I can check things or give you precise citations, although I might be at a later point; but I was misremembering Athanasius for Maximus the Confessor; try the Ambigua around Ambigua 5 or so, discussing the deification of the human nature of Christ, which he elsewhere takes as the template for our deification.

      With regard to (3), you have not established there is anything problematic about his view at all, and with all due respect St. Bernard gets a little more benefit of the doubt than JoeD. There would be something undeniably problematic if he were straightforwardly quietistic, as you seemed to interpret him, but he's not.

      With (2), again, I don't understand what this criticism is; you are criticizing Bernard for not holding the obviously contradictory position that in Heaven we will take God as the ultimate object and motive of our love and also take ourselves as the ultimate object and motive of our love. Bernard is very clear: you will love yourself wholly in God, and not love God because of God's relation to you at all. God will be all in all, and you will do all things for His glory. This is not a nonstandard view; charity is a very potent thing, being divine.

    11. Eirik,

      I think that very much touches on St. Bernard's idea, because the difference between loving everything in God and loving God because of other things you love is that only the former is really stable and lasting.

    12. @Brandon,

      1) I don't get what's so hard to understand about my use of these notions in this context. All I'm referring to is that Bernard believes we will only love ourselves for God's sake.

      We have two logical terms, "love" and "sake". Love is willing the good of something, while sake is the reason or formal intention of the love. Bernard is essentially saying that we will "love" ourselves but not for our own "sake". Our self-love will have only God as the forman intention or reason or ground behind it.

      2) Thanks for the sources. In that case, Bernard is giving these comparisons an additional meaning by stressing certain aspects which weren't stressed earlier.

      3) It all depends on what one takes from quietism. From what you wrote, it seems that quietism and the view of Bernard differ in that the quietists are willing to allow the fourth degree in this life. And just like putting the Beatific Vision in this life waters down the virtue of hope, the same happens with putting the fourth degree in this life as well.

      In that case, Bernard and the quietists share the same view with regards to the formal ground of love being absorbed by God, they just differ in how and when it will happen, and the quietists also do damage in making hope superfluous.

      So we have to get a name for this view where all love becomes absorbed in God. If quietism is bad because quietism is a specific view of when it will happen, then we have to name the view that both Bernard and quietists share in this regard. Maybe call it henosism?

      4) I am criticising Bernard for holding a view that seems absurd and even a bit horrifying - that we will no longer love ourselves for our own sake at all, and that our self-love will only be one more way to love God.

      This basically reduces everything to God. If by "the ultimate object and motive of our love" Bernard means effectively the SOLE and ONLY object of our love, such that nothing is loved for *its* or *any other sake,* but ONLY for God's sake, then this is wrong. Charity may be powerful but it's not a potent acid. This all-absorbing view of charity really does look like it was inspired by the multiplicity-annihilating One of Plotinus than anything else.

      Unless we take the third option by saying that even our *love for others* for *their own sake* is done because it is *good,* and thus we also love others for their own sake *because* it is good to do so, have a way of understanding the ultimacy of God / Goodness itself as an object of our love that includes within itself loving others and ourselves for their own sake. This means that God is transcendent enough to include within Himself the good of loving others or ourselves for our own sake, without this being in conflict with loving God as Goodness itself.

    13. @Brandon

      [REPOSTING due to certain parts needing to be highlighted, but I used the wrong highlighter]


      1) I don't get what's so hard to understand about my use of these notions in this context. All I'm referring to is that Bernard believes we will only love ourselves for God's sake.

      We have two logical terms, "love" and "sake". Love is willing the good of something, while sake is the reason or formal intention of the love. Bernard is essentially saying that we will "love" ourselves but not for our own "sake". Our self-love will have only God as the forman intention or reason or ground behind it.

      2) Thanks for the sources. In that case, Bernard is giving these comparisons an additional meaning by stressing certain aspects which weren't stressed earlier.

      3) It all depends on what one takes from quietism. From what you wrote, it seems that quietism and the view of Bernard differ in that the quietists are willing to allow the fourth degree in this life. And just like putting the Beatific Vision in this life waters down the virtue of hope, the same happens with putting the fourth degree in this life as well.

      In that case, Bernard and the quietists share the same view with regards to the formal ground of love being absorbed by God, they just differ in how and when it will happen, and the quietists also do damage in making hope superfluous.

      So we have to get a name for this view where all love becomes absorbed in God. If quietism is bad because quietism is a specific view of when it will happen, then we have to name the view that both Bernard and quietists share in this regard.

      Maybe call it henosism?

      4) I am criticising Bernard for holding a view that seems absurd and even a bit horrifying - that we will no longer love ourselves for our own sake at all, and that our self-love will only be one more way to love God.

      This basically reduces everything to God. If by "the ultimate object and motive of our love" Bernard means effectively the SOLE and ONLY object of our love, such that nothing is loved for its or any other sake, but ONLY for God's sake, then this is wrong. Charity may be powerful but it's not a potent acid. This all-absorbing view of charity really does look like it was inspired by the multiplicity-annihilating One of Plotinus than anything else.

      Unless we take the third option by saying that even our love for others for their own sake is done because it is good, and thus we also love others for their own sake because it is good to do so, have a way of understanding the ultimacy of God / Goodness itself as an object of our love that includes within itself loving others and ourselves for their own sake. This means that God is transcendent enough to include within Himself the good of loving others or ourselves for our own sake, without this being in conflict with loving God as Goodness itself.

    14. (1) All I'm referring to is that Bernard believes we will only love ourselves for God's sake.

      Then just say that; the 'formally' both adds something that Bernard doesn't say and introduces a distinction you haven't bothered to clarify. When you add something like, "Our self-love will have only God as the formal intention or reason or ground behind it," you either need to justify your introduction of 'formal' into this (since Bernard doesn't say it) as having a meaning equivalent to what Bernard actually does say, or you are twisting his words to say something he doesn't. Likewise, if you are using the term 'formal' for a critique like this, it needs to be precisely defined, or nobody can know what you are talking about or check to see if you are right.

      (2) In that case, Bernard is giving these comparisons an additional meaning by stressing certain aspects which weren't stressed earlier.

      This has not been established in any way, shape, or form. But in any case the reason we are talking about the analogies is that, in response to my saying that the quietist interpretation was inconsistent with Bernard's analogies, you claimed that the analogies themselves were very strong; yes, but, as I said, they are often used by other people. Since you have to concede that other people use the analogies and your claim is that the position you attribute to Bernard is extreme and not common, the strength of the analogies is thereby shown not to counter my point at all -- you have conceded that people can accept these analogies without the strength of them forcing them to accept the position in question. So your response fails, and we are back to the question of whether your interpretation of Bernard is consistent with the analogies.

      (3) From what you wrote, it seems that quietism and the view of Bernard differ in that the quietists are willing to allow the fourth degree in this life.

      No, from what I wrote, Bernard is not a quietest of any kind at all. The idea, which you seem to have accepted, is that *your* interpretation of Bernard seems to be quietistic. But even if we try to read him as close to quietism as possible, his account does not have any of the implications that generally lead to quietism because it is not inconsistent with the virtue of hope; however he is not quietist, because the quietism in question is inconsistent with Bernard's analogies and Bernard explicitly says that we will love ourselves in God in the fourth degree and such an interpretation does not seem to do justice (in fact, it doesn't seem to take into account at all) that the major division here is between loving God as benefactor to us and loving God as lovable in Himself. It doesn't really matter what label you use; if it's not quietism, holding it doesn't conflict with the widespread rejection of quietism, and regardless of what you call it, the argument stands.

      (4) that we will no longer love ourselves for our own sake at all, and that our self-love will only be one more way to love God.

      This view is neither absurd nor in any way horrifying; it is the standard view of charity. Treating loving oneself for one's own sake as the end of the road is called 'pride'. In charity, love of neighbor, and a fortiori love of self, is love of neighbor because of and for the sake of God. In Heaven, where Bernard's fourth degree is had, this is perfect. I have no idea why you are trying to conflate this with God as the sole or only object of love; Bernard explicitly says those in the fourth degree love themselves in God, and this kind of inference requires treating 'X for the sake of Y' as collapsing X and Y, which it manifestly does not.

    15. @Brandon,

      1) Understood.

      2) In that case yes, the analogies themselves don't conclude to Bernard's specific position, I concede that. It's the specific end to which Bernard uses those analogies, namely to describe losing your own sake, that make it seem as if those analogies themselves were unqiuely strong, which they aren't.

      3) Yep. I forgot to take into account that the quietists also state that we will only love God at all, which differs from what Bernard is saying, along with Bernard not stating it's achievabale in this life.

      In that case, the view I'm trying to name is the view that we won't love ourselves for our own sake, which is also taken by the quietists, but isn't the essence of quietism, so Bernard can't be accused of being a quietist in the proper sense of the term.

      4) Nobody is treating one's own sake and the sake of others as the absolute end, as if the created being's sake were the sole and only end and foundation of love.

      And no one is claiming that we won't love ourselves or our neighbor for God's sake at the end of time either.

      The absurdity lies in the claim that we won't have our own sake, period, and that we will only love ourselves for God's sake.

      I qualified my use of "sole and only" by saying it's about sakeness. If we won't love ourselves or others or ANYTHING at all for it's own sake but only for God's sake, then God becomes the sole and only sake.

      The consequence of this is that God is really the only thing that is truly loved (because sake is an important part of love - loving someone solely for your own sake isn't properly called charity precisely because of the sake), and the only difference between this and the quietist ABSOLUTELY SOLE love of God where literally nothing else is loved other than God and everything is excluded, is that other things also happen to be loved but as nothing more than a means of loving God.

      Sure, it's not and should not be called quietism, but it's still bad.

    16. Nobody is treating one's own sake and the sake of others as the absolute end, as if the created being's sake were the sole and only end and foundation of love.

      This is in fact exactly what you are talking about, and what Bernard is saying is overcome in the fourth degree. The degrees of love are explicitly a graduated increase in the extent to which God rather than self is treated as the primary motive and object of love.

      The absurdity lies in the claim that we won't have our own sake, period, and that we will only love ourselves for God's sake.

      I don't know what you mean by 'having our own sake' here; usually to do something for X's sake means that X is treated as the primary motive and end of the action.

      If we won't love ourselves or others or ANYTHING at all for it's own sake but only for God's sake, then God becomes the sole and only sake.

      Yes, this is the kind of love called 'charity'. The fundamental problem throughout is your continual depreciation of the character of charity. Charity is fundamentally a participation of divine love; divine love is fundamentally divine love of the divine and of all other things in the divine. We are only charitable to the extent our participation takes on this character.

      And it does. We receive grace as the air does sunlight (cp. Aquinas, ST 3.7.13), and part of this grace is charity; our charity is a participation in a divine love (cp. ST 2-2.23.2 ad 1), and in this participation we are like iron made red-hot in fire, because that's how participation works (cp. ST 1.34.1). Because of this, in charity we love God for His own sake and our neighbor, and a fortiori ourselves, for God's sake (cp. ST 2-2.23.5 ad 1); and this charity directs all ends of all virtues to this end as well (cp. ST 2-2.23.8 ad 3). Therefore in charity, we love God and love ourselves because we pertain to God (cp. ST 2-2.25.4, 2-2.25.12).

      that other things also happen to be loved but as nothing more than a means of loving God.

      If I understand you correctly, this is not what Bernard is saying, though; we love ourselves in God, which is not straightforwardly the kind of means-end relationship you are suggesting here -- that is, the claim is that in loving God we will love ourselves in Him, not that we will love ourselves in order to love God.

    17. @Brandon,

      1) In that case, I don't know why anyone thinks this. When you drink a nice cold glass of juice, you're doing it for your own sake. I don't think anyone is treating themselves as the absolute end there. Everyone obviously treats themselves as an end and an object of love, yes, but there's simply no intentional absolute exclusion of God there.

      2) It's simple. Nobody calls it love when one loves another person solely for your own sake. The reason why is because the person isn't loved for his own sake. The person is not an end of the love at all.

      3) We should, again, distinguish between loving x for God's sake, and loving x SOLELY for God's sake. It's true supernatural charity or Godly charity has God as it's end, and that in charity towards God we do also love others for God's sake as well. But none of this implies we must love them ONLY for God's sake, and that our love for anything is just a roundabout way of loving God.

      Keep in mind that God loves Himself for His own sake, and the fact rational beings naturally love themselves for their own sake as well clearly reflects God in this way. To love God is to love Goodness itself, and so to love someone for God's sake is to love them for Goodness's sake - and nobody would disagree that loving someone for their own sake is good. And in this sense it doesn't at all contradict Goodness to love something for it's own sake, but rather fulfills the good. In this sense, God is glorified when we love something for it's own sake.

      Also, would you mind pointing me to the actual articles of the Summa you are citing? I can't find them by just searching "summa theologiae 3.7.13", so that indexing doesn't help find what part is specifically talked about.

      4) When we love someone purely for our own sake, we don't truly love them since they aren't the end of our love, but we're only loving ourselves. To love everything ONLY for God's sake is to have only love of God as our end, and the love of other things is, like loving others solely for our own sake, just a roundabout form of loving God.

    18. Nobody calls it love when one loves another person solely for your own sake. The reason why is because the person isn't loved for his own sake. The person is not an end of the love at all.

      This is entirely wrong; most of what people call love is not loving someone for their own sake. Loving someone for their own sake is very, very hard, and can only be done by a lot of practice in loving them for all sorts of reasons.

      It's true supernatural charity or Godly charity has God as it's end, and that in charity towards God we do also love others for God's sake as well. But none of this implies we must love them ONLY for God's sake, and that our love for anything is just a roundabout way of loving God.

      As I already pointed out, conflating the one with "anything is just a roundabout way of loving God" appears to be a misinterpretation of Bernard. In charity we don't love other things for God's sake "as well"; we love other things for God's sake. As far as I know, nobody else in the entire history of theology adds this qualification for perfect charity; Bernard doesn't. Augustine (De Doctr. Chr., Book I, Chapter 22) doesn't. The Glossa ordinaria, the most commonly accepted biblical commentary in the Middle Ages, doesn't (see, e.g., the Gloss on 1 Jn 4:7). As far as I know, no one does. Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (1822), "Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God." The 'as well' is simply something you are adding on your own, for no obvious reason.

      I don't understand your question about citing; ST 3.7.13 would just be part III, question 7, article 13, which you can find by going to the table of contents of any online version of the Summa.

    19. @Brandon,

      1) Well, there is love of concupiscence and love of friendship. I would say it's a safe bet that the vast majority of humanity understands and has experienced both of them.

      2) I think I've even read an essay about how explicates Aquinas' notion of how love of others is based on self-love, even if distinct and certainly not identical due to it not being self-love, that explicates this in a similar fashion to mine.

      Namely, to love another person but solely for some benefit the person provides you is still a form of self-love, since the end of the action is still yourself properly speaking.

      So it would follow that to love x but not for the sake of x means the end of the act of love is not x, but something else. So all things considered it is more properly love of another thing, not x properly speaking.

      Neither the Catechism nor the Glossa ordinaria when citing Augustine states anything contrary to self-love or love of neighbor for their own sake. They simply define the supernatural virtue of charity as loving God for God's sake and neighbor for God's sake.

      It's true that supernatural charity is love of God and neighbor for God's sake. That's simply the definition of this type of charity.

      But to say this excludes love of X for X's sake is like saying one can't clap one's hands, because the definition of sitting or eating or running doesn't include it.

    20. They simply define the supernatural virtue of charity as loving God for God's sake and neighbor for God's sake.

      No, because Augustine's explicit point when he talks about these things is that God alone should be the object of fruition (or enjoyment, as it is often translated) in love. And as I explicitly said, the "as well" that you keep trying to slip in is nonexistent in all these sources.

      But to say this excludes love of X for X's sake is like saying one can't clap one's hands, because the definition of sitting or eating or running doesn't include it.

      Again with the nonsensical purely additive account of charity: charity is the ultimate architectonic virtue, the form of all other virtues. In the perfection of charity, all other ends are subordinated to its ends.

    21. @Brandon,

      1) I've finally found where Augustine says that. But while Augustine may say that, the other sources do not explicitly state that.

      I wonder though, what is the status of this particular exclusive view that loving X for X's sake is incompatible with loving God / must be eliminated / or even is bad? Is it a theologoumenon? Are Catholics obliged to hold it? Or is it something in between?

      2) "the form of all other virtues."

      This is what I meant when I used form and matter. The form of something is related to it's self-intention, and if nothing is to be loved for it's own sake but only for God's sake, then only the matter of self-love is present, and not the form. It's like God possesses the dead body of self-love.

  13. I recently started reading David Berlinski (a very interesting person). His book "The Devil's Delusion" is a very enjoyable read filled with cleaver verbal quips about scientism and the vain ignorance of the "New Atheism". Berlinski is an agnostic who claims that the question of God's existence is not conclusive.

    He makes the common mistake of thinking that Aquinas argued for God's existence by contingency arguments extending backward in time. He then shows the flaws in such arguments and concludes that Aquinas' arguments are weak.

    He also discusses classical arguments (ala Ockham, Scotus, et. al.) about whether or not God can command a moral evil and thereby make it good, or if God is obliged to "the Good" and thereby doesn't fit the job description. The dilemma is easily answered by the doctrine of Divine simplicity, but Berlinski is apparently unaware.

    One wonders if Berlinski were to be presented with the correct arguments on these subjects, what he would make of them and if his conclusions would be changed as a result.

  14. The old Classical Theism Forum has been unfortunately shut down because of hackers attacking it. The community has been dispersed and we're trying the best we can to reconstitute it. To those unfamiliar with it, it's a great community for open rational discourse on ethics, metaphysics, theology, and philosophy in general. Please consider joining.

    Here's the link to our current hosting site:

  15. I´m interested in learning about why axiom S5 is so popular among logicians, its justification and the objections to it. Can anyone recommend a book for beginners on that topic?

    1. S5 appears self-evident or at least very intuitive to many. It certainly is very intuitive to me.

      If you do not see it as a priori plausible like that, though (you should!!!), I know of at least one argument for it, from memory - Pruss has argued that his Aristotelian inspired, powers theory of alethic modality (what makes something possible, possible) ultimately entails both S5 and PSR. Check out his book Actuality, Possibility and Worlds. Or google, maybe he has some blog posts on that; you can also find his doctoral thesis on possibility and I think the argument may also be present there.

    2. Hi Atno!

      Thanks for your answer. I know that S5 is intuitively accepted by many and I can broadly see why, especially if we keep in mind the extensive use of possible worlds nowadays. But I don´t think that I´m yet in a position to judge its intuitive plausibility with any deeper knowledge. And this is what I am trying to change. The post on Ontological Investigations rekindled my interest, as well as your post on the old forum. I´ll check Pruss´s book, it has been on my wishlist for quite some time and he has become one of my absolute favourite contemporary philosophers.

      Any further suggestion?

    3. S5 is popular because it is a natural assumption to use for abstract objects, since another way to think of S5 is that it makes all possibilities available all the time. Possibility for abstract objects is very intuitively understood as necessary; if it is genuinely possible that such-and-such is a mathematical true, it's naturally seen as necessarily possible. And however much analytic philosophers may sometimes try to hide, they are platonistic at heart; they use unrestricted quantification as if all possibilities are always available, they tend to make arguments that depend on the reality of sets (which are paradigmatic abstract objects), etc. Thus a modal logic with S5 is the modal logic most consistent with the practices of analytic philosophy.

      When you are dealing with other things, however, S5 is not always plausible -- for doing mereotopology or provability, you don't generally want anything stronger than S4. It's entirely possible to have a metaphysics that thinks of real possibilities in this way (mereology rather than set theory, no unrestricted quantification, etc.); it's just not as natural a step from the usual analytic practices.

      The big question, although given the widespread assumption of S5 it is often not asked, is whether S5 should be used only when dealing with pure possibilities or whether it should be taken as also identifying actual possibility, i.e., possibility given that something actually exists.

    4. Thanks Brandon!
      You probably guessed it, but the issue is most interesting when it comes to the ontological argument and Pruss´s argument from Powers for an omnipotent being. And I think your last paragraph deals with it. Do you have any literature to recommend? And how do you think progress can be made in order to ask the question is said paragraph?

  16. I'm looking at the recent meta studies of near death experiences, for example:

    From NDEs, examples of memories include recounting jokes of people outside the room the patient was in, seeing what is on top of cabinets, and seeing other events the patient would not have been able to know when taking into account their condition and location at the time.

    Assuming, for the moment, that NDEs do occur.
    1) How would Aristotelian Thomism describe how NDEs occur?
    2) How would a person experience these sensations?
    3) How would, for example, a person who has a NDE remember the sensations that occurred during the event?

    1. It has been asked before, but I can´t give you a proper answer. Data which shows patience witnessing distant events during NDEs are strong evidence which can´t just be explained away, but I also can´t give you an answer as to which kind of philosophy of mind that would vindicate, except a broad dualism. So it is easier to say what it certainly does NOT vindicate and that would be a physicalistic account of mind. What happens is too mysterious and answering 2) and 3) seems to be impossible.

    2. In reply to 1.) I don’t know. NDE’s seem more compatible with a Platonic conception of the soul as opposed to an Aristotelian conception.

      Regarding 2.) It’s difficult to know, so this will just be me speculating, but it would imply that the organs of sensation aren’t *sufficient* for sensation to occur, and that sensation can occur through a non-physical medium.

      With 3.) it would appear to be the case that there is some aspect of memory that would have to be non-physical as well, or, memories are being sustained into existence by God when brain activity stops.

      Again, this is all speculation, but NDE’s do make me uncomfortable as a neo-Thomist because if they’re true, it’s hard to square them with a Thomistic account of the person. It would seem to be the case that the neo-Platonists are vindicated by NDE’s

    3. God could miraculously provide the soul with data and phantasms with which to work with, without the use of senses. Presumably, God already does this for the afterlife (before the Resurrection of the body); He could also do that with NDEs.

    4. Yes, I´d probably side with Atno here. NDEs should probably count as instances of religious experience

    5. Another perhaps troubling aspects of NDEs for Thomists (and Catholics and many religious exclusivists) is that positive NDEs (which form the overwhelming majority) don't seem to be correlated with one's virtue or faith. Atheists, agnostics, and members of various faiths seem to experience them at roughly the same rates. Also, although there are sometimes Christian elements in them, they don't necessarily accord with what we'd think of as a Christian vision of the afterlife, and sometimes they include non-Christian elements. There's an open question about how much some of this is shaped by cultural interpretations after the experience, but it still seems hard to square them with exactly what we'd expect if we take the Christian or Catholic view as literal fact.

    6. Also, although I think that at this point the evidence for veridical perception during NDEs is quite good (see Rivas et. al,The Self Does Not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near-Death Experiences), the evidence for non-normal perception and action given by certain other phenomena is stronger. The most obvious examples is laboratory psi research. I think, at this stage, one would have to be dogmatically opposed to not accept that both telepathy and psychokinesis have been shown in a laboratory setting. I think the evidence for crisis apparitions, going back to Gurney et al.'s momentous Phantasms of thr Living is very strong. The same goes for some so called Poltergeist phenomena (see the work of Hans Bender and William Roll). Finally, there's the work of Stevenson and his associates and successors on recantation type cases, where the evidence of paranormal phenomena is, to my mind, stronger than NDEs.

      I'd be interested how this evidence can be brought in line with Thomism (preferably without parroting the psuedo-sceptical dismissals of the dogmatic materialists).

      One particularly interesting issue is the psi evidence for precognition, both in the laboratory and in spontaneous cases. It's hard to rule out other explanations, such as psychokinesis, in such cases, especially in the laboratory, but sometimes such explanations tend to stretch credulity when the seeming precognition involves complex events. Of course, the more complex cases (like people who have precognition of disasters that come close to what actually occurs down to the details) tend to occur outside the laboratory, and it can be questioned if we have enough well-evidenced examples (although there are quite a few very intriguing ones).

    7. I don't think the issue of NDEs being positive for most people regardless of faith is particularly troubling except for those who are very exclusivist; I think even conservative Catholics could grant that many people are saved, at least through some kind of ignorance of sorts or other aspects of God's mercy - we just shouldn't be very presumptuous about it. Also, in any case, NDEs are near-death, not exactly death.
      I think the religious components are most likely due to some cultural biases and interpretative issues. There are many which have Christian elements - I think most of them? What is more impressive and relevant is what all or almost all NDEs seem to have in common, to go beyond biases and interpretations. The experiences of peace, comfort, of the Light, often meeting others, etc.

      I think what NDEs, especially veridical NDEs, can establish (or provide some evidence for) is a broad dualism, or the idea that there is more than just the body and that human consciousness has an element which transcends the body, and the suggestion that there is a good afterlife. It's a good boost to a religion such as Christianity and others like it, imo.

      By the way: W. Norris Clarke briefly touches upon the subject in his "the one and the many", where he gives an interesting suggestion that perhaps in near death the human soul (understood in hylemorphic terms) is connected to more subtle energy fields, etc. I don't remember his exact words. But there could be more to the bodily human substance than what meets the eye, in any case.

    8. I am more familiar with NDEs, and there is good evidence for veridical NDEs.

      I tend to be skeptical of psi phenomena, it seems more controversial, but admittedly I am unfamiliar with big studies. But if someone is somehow convinced it is real, I don't think it would be particularly hard to explain through, say, either divine or demonic interventions (the latter assuming the thomist is a Christian).
      For instance, premonitions. God can give us premonitions by miraculously or providentially giving us specific information, phantasms, or even thoughts. Saint Joseph was told about Mary and what to do about her in a dream. It seems quite possible and unsurprising that God could sometimes give someone the premonition of a disaster or some other event, for example.

      If psi phenomena are real, I think explanations in terms of God, or perhaps demonic activity etc. would make more sense than to postulate human beings naturally having psychic powers or stuff like that.

    9. I wouldn't claim expertise, but I have a reasonable knowledge of the area. I think there's undoubtedly stronger evidence for some other areas of psi or paranormal than veridical NDEs, though I agree the evidence for the latter is relatively strong. I'm not sure why we would sceptical of, for example, the laboratory work on psi or Stevenson's work and less so on veridical NDEs or, presumably, Catholic miracles, except on a priori metaphysical grounds. That's not to say all paranormal claims or fields have as much evidence. There's a lot of popular trash written in the subject, and some fields lack strong evidence (sometimes from their very natures - like so called phonecalls from the dead, for example). But from my informed layman's perspective, I would Catholic miracles and veridical NDEs are mid-table, to use a football metaphor, in the evidence for them.

      On the divine or demonic, it does seem rather ad hoc. Some of these skills are quite prosaic and they have relationships with the rest of the psyche that look a little strange if we appeal to divine or demonic intervention. For example, is God or the devil interfering to marginally (though statistically significantly) alter the returns from a random-number generator? How about the fact, for example, that it has been shown sensory deprivation can be more conducive to psi phenomena? That makes it look like it's connected with the psyche.

    10. There’s a good paper on scihub:

      Near–death experiences. A theological interpretation

      by Harm Goris

    11. Sorry, missed Atno's post on NDEs.

      Hm. I'm not quite so sure it's so easy to square what we observe from the study of NDEs with mainstream Christian or Catholic expectations. It seems from the NDE data that faith and perhaps works (that's harder to say, of course, given the limits in knowledge) have little to do with whether one has an NDE or whether it is positive. Would we really we expect that from the mainstream Catholic or Christian understanding of eschatology?

      It's true that an NDE, by definition, isn't a death in the final sense. But if an NDE doesn't in some sense reflect final death, then it would surely be a kind of delusion. If we are accepting that it is a paranormal experience then what would be the cause of the delusion? Surely God wouldn't deceive us. I suppose we can appeal to demons again, but that seems a little lame to me as an explanation.

    12. I take NDEs to be a form of special religious experience, so it is natural that not everyone will have it. Since it's plausible to me that most end up being saved through one way or another, and I don't think this is contrary to even conservative Catholicism, I do not find that troubling; but in any case, it could simply be God providing some kind of merciful, good anticipation or experience to whoever is having it. And as I said, it is NEAR-death, not really death - and there is no deception either, since God could very well simply be using these experiences to tell the person "there is something out there, it is loving, it is good, rethink your life", etc. Many people undergo very positive transformations in their lives after experiencing NDEs. So God could have his reasons for giving us that; whatever they are.

      Not all NDEs are legit in any case, some (perhaps many?) really might be illusory. But the core experience appears to be a well-attended phenomenon, and veridical NDEs are very hard to explain naturalistically. As I said, I think NDEs give some evidence for a broad dualism, and of some kind of afterlife, which is good for Christianity. But we might not be able to say much more than that. I am inclined to believe it's some kind of special intervention by God.

      If someone is convinced of PSI phenomena, then I think these can be explained by either divine or demonic action. I would grant that this would be ad hoc for some cases, but it seems some ad hocness would be better than the idea that we naturally have psychic powers like that. Because I just find that idea way too strange to accept - its prior probability seems very low to me, why humans would have such and such subtle psychic powers and why they activate like that. I think demonic activity, even if ad hoc for some cases, could still be preferable. Who knows what demons intend - maybe they wanna deceive people away from the faith or whatever, I don't know.

    13. But surely for the Catholic and Christian, it's necessary to adhere to the Christian faith and live a Christian life (in the various ways the different denominations understand that)? Obviously, it isn't for us to judge exactly who is saved or not, but surely we would expect a relationship between positive NDEs and faith or at least works (unbelievers should at least be particularly good people)? And is it a Catholic position that most are saved?

      It's true that NDEs, or positive ones at least, very often lead to emotional and spiritual transformations in those who undergo. This, alongside the very fact that an NDE occurs when the brain is either close to death or clinically dead, is almost as fascinating as the veridical experiences that sometimes occur. It is rare for hallucinations or the kinds of scenarios sceptics try to explain NDEs away as (like oxygen deprivation) to lead to such a transformation or have any long-term effects (the possible exception is certain hallucinogenic drugs, like LSD, though the phenomenology and after-effects are quite different). However, I'm not sure it is particularly common for experiences to receive explicitly Christian messages of transformation. Many, if not most, become more spiritual, but I think far fewer become stronger Christians, or members of any organised religion.

      I'm not sure what you mean by some NDEs being an illusion. I don't see tha God would give us a taste of a positive afterlife and then trick us. I do actually think that NDEs must be partly imaginal, in the sense that Henry Corbin uses the term. After all, they seem somewhat different for each person and across cultures, despite the remarkable similarities. I agree they are in a sense a religious or mystical experience. They share some traits with mystical experiences.

      On paranormal experiences, it is a matter of empirical, probable arguments and plausibility, so it is true we can't rule out demons. I just don't find it very plausible as an explanation. It might not make as much sense if one doesn't have familiarity with the literature on these phenomena, but they have been studied and certain patterns have been found for some. For example, psychical researchers generally think most poltergeist phenomena are best explained as a matter of the psychic effects of living humans - usually, for each case, one person, often in adolescence and experiencing some kind of emotional tension - rather than any kind of disembodied spirit. See Roll's famous Miami case or Bender's one involving the German legal secretary. It doesn't mean we can rule out demons or spirits completely, but the evidence does seem to make them less plausible.

      Also, what makes demons less plausible to me is just how much some of the phenomena seem connected to normal human psyche, and I gave an example above. The psi laboratory tests seem to show that many, if not most, people can produce low-level psi. Nothing spectacular, but statistically very significant. Also, there are human faculties or capacities not exactly normal, but not exactly paranormal, that seem to bridge the gap in some ways between truly paranormal phenomena and the normal psyche. I mean hypnotism, various forms of disassociation (like hysteria and multiple personality disorder) and automatism, some genius and creativity phenomena, psychophysical causation. Irreducible Mind by the Kelly's et al. is a good introduction to these extra-normal, but not paranormal, phenomena. I'm not saying that all paranormal phenomena are human psi phenomena, as some believe, but simply that there is a complex relationship here, or appears to be, between paranormal phenomena and the psyche. They don't appear simply as the kind large external events or possessions that we'd expect of demons. That seems to me a far less plausible reading of the evidence as a whole.

    14. It's not a Catholic position, but I wouldn't say it's a non-Catholic position either. It wouldn't honestly surprise me if most are saved from hell.

      I didn't say God would be tricking us, I just said that God could use NDEs to bring good effects to people's lives - to help them conquer fear of death to a certain extent; to give them some evidence of an afterlife; to make them rethink their lives and try to become more loving and virtuous in some ways; to become more spiritual or look more into it (ideally, to open themselves more for Christianity, though that depends on the persons' choices too), and so on. And these are just suggestions.

      I just can't make much sense of the idea of human beings having psychic powers. It just doesn't make sense to me - how, and why, human beings would have these strange powers, completely apart from the activity of spiritual beings (I.e. God or demons), so if I ever were to become convinced of PSI, I'd rather take a more ad hoc route with demons or whatever than to conclude humans have psychic abilities - because the idea seems to have a very low probability to me. That's my assessment, at least.
      As far as classifying some things as "extra-normal", neither normal nor paranormal, that also appears very weird to me.

    15. Wouldn't God use NDEs only if they reflected the truth in some way? Not that they are literally true as experienced (i.e., the afterlife is exactly like that), but that they reflect it in some important ways. Wouldn't we expect more explicitly Christian messages in them, from a Christian or Catholic perspective? We don't really find that. They don't seem to significantly make people more traditionally Christian or religious, though they do tend to make people less fearful of death and more spiritual and loving.

      It doesn't too much sense to me to talk of becoming convinced of psi or certain other paranormal phenomena whilst accepting veridical NDEs. I can think of at least four or five categories of paranormal phenomena, off the top of my head, that, to my informed layman's perspective, have better evidence of something paranormal going on than NDEs (though I want to stress I think the evidence in the latter is good and enough to warrant belief): laboratory psi, crisis-apparitions, the best poltergeist phenomena, the best mediumship examples (such as Leonora Piper or the so called cross-correspondences), and the reincarnation type cases investigated by Stevenson and his colleagues and imitators. I'm not aware of a NDE veridical case as impressive as, say, the Rosenheim poltergeist case or Roll's Miami poltergeist case, as spontaneous cases go. Nor do veridical NDEs have the kind of statistical evidence we in laboratory PSI or in the work of those like Gurney et al. on crisis apparitions.

      I think we would really have to look in depth at the nature of paranormal phenomena and their relationship, so far as we can tell, to humans, to determine what is the most likely explanation. Metaphysics will be important, but so will what makes sense empirically. I'm not aware of many psychical researchers or parapsychologists who do think demons or direct divine intervention the best or most plausible explanation, although it is hard to rule anything entirely in or out when dealing with empirical matters.

    16. When I say extra-normal this is partly a matter of what seems closest to our normal everyday experiences, and it's also partly a matter of what is less far from the contemporary, somewhat materialist framework that modern science understands the mind and body. Hypnotism, for example, is generally accepted by psychologists and medical professionals as a real phenomena , and has been for over a century (interestingly, in Real Essentialism, David Oderberg implies he isn't aware of this). There have been sporadic attempts to 'naturalise' it a little more, by claiming it's an elaborate form of play acting and conformism (see T.X. Barber for example), but these have tended to peter out, especially given, one, the kinds of phenomena that can be exhibited under hypnotism (would leg amputees or people having their teeth removed really be able to feign a lack of pain or even awareness just to play act or please their hypnotist? Unlikely) and, two, electro- and neural imaging has shown hypnotism has detectable effects on the brain quite different from play acting or normal imagining. The range of phenomena I mentioned as extra-normal are not everyday ones, but they tend to be at least somewhat recognised by mainstream science. Although I think many of them are ultimately a big problem for materialist understandings of the mind and reality, they are not so obviously so as, for example, reincarnation experiences or psi. But the main reason I brought them up is they seem to bridge the gap between normal psychological functioning and the definitively paranormal. Take, for example, genius or creativity phenomena such as the well-documented ability of poems or works or mathematical theorems to come fully formed, or mostly so, to those receptive. A. E. Housman, for example, or Robert Louis Stevenson and several important mathematicians have talked of this. Or there's the example of Srinivasa Ramanujan and the cab with the number 1729, which Ramanujan was almost instantaneously able to recognise was the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways. Not just mathematicians, but idiot savants have been able to accomplish such feats. The point is that not only are such phenomena somewhat troubling for scientific materialists (although, to be honest, so is almost everything about the mind), but they show how far beyond the normal our minds might stretch, without even entering explicitly and definitively paranormal terrain. What's more, the extra-normal phenomena are often linked to paranormal phenomena: psi often takes place within them or in some other they bring out the paranormal.

    17. But I think NDEs do reflect the truth in some way. Most Christians would agree that NDEs reflect the truth. It may not be the whole truth, but it does reflect some important truths: that human consciousness and personhood is not limited to the body; that there is some kind of after life; some kind of loving higher power (in some NDEs); and so on. I don't think we should expect God to make everything explicitly and obviously Christian; and in any case, there is also the issue that much of NDEs (beyond the core experience which is more easily discernible) might be filtered through cultural, religious and personal biases. As I said, I think NDEs provide some evidence for a broad dualism (mainly), and also for an afterlife, perhaps for some kind of loving afterlife. But it's hard to to beyond that. And likewise, I don't think it provides problems for Christian's- or at least not big problems. I think it's mostly consistent and "good" for Christianity to the extent that it supports a broad dualism and an idea of the afterlife, and that the rest is pretty vague or hard to discern.

      "It doesn't too much sense to me to talk of becoming convinced of psi or certain other paranormal phenomena whilst accepting veridical NDEs."

      As I said, I'm not really familiar with the purported evidence for psi phenomena. But I think someone can quite coherently accept evidence of NDEs but back away from psi phenomena out of considerations of prior probabilities. (That depends on what we're calling "psi phenomena", too, since the term is quite broad).

      For instance, there are some claims about purported evidence for reincarnation. But someone can find reincarnation a priori very implausible (because it contradicts their religious belief, which they think is very well supported; or because they think it faces philosophical problems, such as issues with hylemorphism, or any other objections). If the evidence turns out to be good, that person might still reject it as something they don't know how to *really* explain, while nevertheless rejecting it on principled reasons. It would be a cost, no doubt, but everyone has to assess what epistemic prices they are willing to pay, based on what propositions and worldviews they find more convincing.

      So maybe the purported evidence for psi - which I haven't studied - is good; but I find the idea that humans have psychic powers to be intrinsically improbable - if I were impressed by any evidence, I would tend to favor explanations in terms of demons etc., because even though these might be ad hoc, I think I might be able to make better sense of them than the idea that human beings mysteriously have these psychic powers - why? How? Etc. That's just me.
      By comparison, I don't find NDEs particularly surprising or mysterious under theism, Christianity, etc. That the human soul and consciousness is able to operate beyond the body in situations of death or near death (an afterlife seems to make sense and appears predictable to me under theism), and so on. The ideas surrounding NDEs are not as weird or surprising to me as those surrounding psi.

    18. Sorry, lost my reply. Will try to reply soon.

    19. I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on Christianity and NDEs. I just think that the implication or tendency of the mainstream Catholic or Christian views of the afterlife is that only those who profess the Christian faith and in some sense live up to it will be saved. Even if we accept that we can't know who God will save and that righteous unbelievers may be saved, the pattern of believing, righteous Christians being saved is surely what we'd expect. The thing about the NDE data is not just that a lot of non-Christians have positive NDEs, but it isn't clear there is any pattern like the dominant Christian view would expect. Faith and, perhaps,w don't seem to make much of a difference. More research needs to be done, though, especially into works (though that is going to be hard).

      I think it's true that our ideas of prior possibilities do have an important role to play in assessing paranormal claims. However, we need to be very cautious about it. We shouldn't let our prejudices get in the way of empirical evidence. That's what dogmatic materialists often do with NDEs, miracles, or just dualism in general. For a start, I think there's a difference between strong metaphysical arguments and intuitions about what is possible. I think the former enjoys a lot more weight than the latter.

      Also, I think we really need to investigate the evidence, and all of it, in depth and together with the relationships indicated between these phenomena and the mind and physical reality before we can come to any conclusions. Pseudo-sceptics often dismiss them without have any deep knowledge. Indeed, even the professional or famous sceptics (like the infamous Randi or Michael Shermer) are often shockingly ignorant of what they pronounce on. This is especially important if we are dismissing things based on intuitions.

      Maybe it's because I am a Platonist, but I don't find psi and other paranormal phenomena that suprising. One reason is there seems to be a continuum between normal psychological phenomena through what I called extra-normal ones through to the definitively paranormal. Take psycho-kinesis. We can start with the placebo effect, which is generally accepted by mainstream scientists (even if I think it is still troubling for materialism).* Then there's more extreme examples of psychophysical causation, such as dermography and stigmata and extrem forms of suggestive healing. Then, moving on to the definitively paranormal, there's the laboratory so called micro-PK, which is only generally observable through statistical analysis, and then the macro-PK associated with gifted subjects such as D.D. Home.

    20. * I was going to add that it isn't completely clear placebo and psychophysical causation on one's self are best classified as psycho-kinesis, but the same principle applies however we classify them.

    21. I wouldn't necessarily dismiss the demonic explanation for some even naturally seeming psychic powers.

      My mind recalls a third-hand example of a person who seemed to have gained the ability to know the location of certain objects in the dark akin to a sixth-sense, but then lost the ability when entering a house with an image of the Theotokos.

      At least in this case, an immaterial intelligence was certainly providing him with the information needed. A full on possession isn't necessary for it.

      As for psi phenomenon seeming more conducive under sensory deprivation, that too isn't necessary measure of natural vs external psychic results. It's obvious that, when the mind is deprived of sensory impressions, it becomes more sensitive to possible external sources that may give it information.

      Kind of like how removing artifical sounds in your room makes your hearing more sensitive to the sounds coming from outside.

    22. That could be true, but you have to wonder why, in many cases, these demons are, for example, altering the patterns of random number generators in a marginal, but statistically significant, way. There are more spectacular laboratory results, but a lot of it, whilst fascinating from a scientific and philosophical sense, is not the kind of stuff that we see in films. There have been gifted subjects, going all the way to the famous D.D. Home in the nineteenth century, in whose productions one could more readily speculate on demon involvement, not least because trance was often involved.

      It interesting, though, that personality factors can affect who makes a better psi subject in the laboratory. For example, extroverted people tend to make better subjects.

      One thing that we'd also have to take into account is that the subjective expectations of subjects can make a big difference in how some phenomena manifest themselves. Skin-writing, or dermography, for example, which is more extra-normal, than strictly paranormal, often reflects the expectations and experience of the subject. The famous subject Olga K, for instance, who had a great gift for making words and symbols appear on specific parts of her skin (sometimes receiving them paranormally in tests - e.g., someone present would think a name but not say it and it would subsequently appear on her shoulder) was from a Russian background. Much of the testing with her occurred in France (in the 20s), and sometimes she subconsciously rendered the letters on her skin from the Latin alphabet into Cyrillic. This kind of thing happens a lot. Even in stigmatics, who the more modern ones, where we have most evidence, it's well-known that the wounds of Christ that appear very often reflect those on a depiction of the crucifixion that the subject had often been exposed to, or been particularly moved by. There is a definite impression that the psyche of the subject is at least mediating the phenomena.

      In general, suggestion and self-suggestion play a large role in quite a few extra-normal and paranormal phenomena. Suggestion seems a normal part of the human psyche, although it can extend far beyond what we normally encounter. There is a continuum of cases going from placebo to basic hypnotic suggestion to spontaneous healing to stigmatics and skin-writing to maternal impressions and the birthmarks and defects on reincarnation type cases that often match death wounds of the supposed past personality.

      I suppose, though, whether we credit demon involvement depends upon how we view the while range of phenomena. But it doesn't strike me as the most plausible and certainly not the most simple explanation for many cases. It seems to violate Occam's Razor. There are spontaneous cases where something more sinister may be involved, though we have to separate the popular trash and distortion from what has solid evidence. But these are a slim minority of even apparition cases. Probably the most numerous and well-documented apparition cases are so called crisis apparitions, where the phantasm of a friend or relative who is in danger or dying appears. Again, it's hard to see how demons are a plausible explanation in such cases. It seems far simpler and common sensical to me think there is some direct connection between the two (or, occasionally, more) people involved.

    23. It's not that hard to see how and why demons might alter marginal test results. They might not be interested in producing great test results for whatever reason - maybe to convince people that these psychic abilities are natural so that more people open themselves up to their influence.

      Christian tradition already has the concept of inserted thoughts - demons may insert thoughts into people's heads that aren't even sinful for whatever reason they desire. The influence in that case is really fairly small, but they apparently still have a reason for doing it. So I wouldn't dismiss the smallness of a result as making it necessarily unlikely that external forces are at work.

      That's not to say it's not a natural thing as well - it very well could be as well. I also don't think the fact certain subjects are more sensitive to psi and make better subjects inherently points towards a natural psi conclusion - it could just as well be the case some people are more sensitive to external influence as well, instead of having more natural psi.

      At least that's concerning psi and getting information in non-ordinary ways. The other phenomenon you mention (i.e. skin writing) may not be like that since the main container of the phenomenon isn't a person's mind - though it's also quite possible external agents could influence what writing appear on a person's body at least indirectly via inserted thoughts as mentioned above.

  17. Favorate Science Fiction Tropes.

    No FTL, all starships are relativistic lighthuggers.
    No Paragravity, starships have spinning sections for gravity.
    Also Nanotech is used to deal with the effects of Zero G
    and effect DNA repair for radiation damage.
    No humanoid aliens, if any.
    Pseudo FTL, in far future settings, Stargates, Wormholes or
    Krasnikov tubes are build for quasi-FTL. They must still be towed
    to other star systems STL.
    Far Future from the year 3000 to 135,000 years in the future.
    Extra dimensional horror.

    Religions in the far future, how will religions with a formal leader
    cope with lightspeed communication limits? Being 500 light years from Sol
    & being Catholic means you only know who the Pope was 500 years
    ago(assuming there is no stargate connection yet)?

    1. The future has a frustrating habit of not obeying our conjectures. 200 years ago we'd be asking how we're going to produce enough food to feed an expanding population because we wouldn't know that the steam train would eventually transport fertilizer and increase food production.

  18. Aristotle defines money as a measure and he is right. A pair of shoes is $30. An iPhone is $600. A share of company XYZ is $100. 8 hours work at company XYZ is $800. And so on and so forth. Money is a standard that allows us to compare and equate disparate things.
    Let us compare this to another familiar measure, time. Time is the measure of motion. In the concrete, time is itself a motion. I compare the motion of a stop watch to a runner and say he ran 100 meters in so many seconds (or ticks of the watch). I measure my life in years or the motion of the earth around the sun and so forth. An implication of this is that a measure must contain in itself that which it measures. Time is a measure of motion and itself is a motion. Motion cannot be measured by something not in motion, such as a concept or syllogism.
    Money by analogy must also contain within self the same sort of value as other things. Things such as shoes, iPhones and etc. are valuable to men because of objective qualities rendering them useful. Consequently, dollars – or fiat currencies more generally – cannot be valuable simply by legislative fiat, but must contain within themselves some objective quality rendering them useful, otherwise they could not function as a measure of other things.

    1. Consequently, money is not a type of property but a manner of treating property. We take some property and treat it as the measure of other things as we take a clock, planet, or caesium atom as a measure of other motions. Any property may be money, but some are better than others for facilitating exchange.
      From this perspective, trade is a matter of barter. We are exchanging different types of property. Using one type of property as a standard facilitates barter, but does not essentially change the nature of the exchange.
      As result of this is that usury is not a matter of the nature of money. Giving money in a loan is nothing other than giving some property commonly accepted as a standard in exchange. The essential nature of the loan is not altered whether one grants dollars, shares of stock, or shoes.

  19. Can someone astonish me and reconcile conservatism and Thomism, given than one is repelled by dogma and the other is defined by it?

    1. Blog Public Service Announcement - Don't Feed the TrollsDecember 5, 2019 at 12:53 PM

      Please don't feed the troll. Cervantes is an obsessive troll who was banned from here because he's obsessed with Feser and the relationship of Catholicism to conservatism. Being a creep, he has entirely ignored being told by Feser to get lost. You will be wasting everyone's time by feeding him.

  20. Here's a topic.

    Thomism entails theological determinism.

    On the one hand God is immutable and impossible. He cannot be affected by creatures whether that's prayer, free choice to respond to grace or what have you. He knows what he knows because he determines what happens.

    Another independent reason for thinking Thomism entails theological determinism is the idea that everything that moves is moved by another. So when someone makes a free choice, their will moves from potency to act in terms of what to will and when to will it. This is an example of a potential being actualized. Nothing cab actualize itself. The decision to *specifically* will such and such a decision is actualized by God.

    Which is theological determinism.

    Raises real questions about Catholic doctrines like hell.

    1. What's it got to do with Thomism specifically? Free will is not a problem unique to Thomism. If you prefer some words other than "unmoved mover", fine; same problem, different words.

    2. T N,
      I´m not quite sure. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Thomism, at least by the assertions Callum quoted, makes too many positive statements about God and how he acts. Also Scotus for example seems to put more merit on the libertarian free will, than Thomas does, and depending on the formulation it could really seem that Aquinas views the will as determined, though I don´t think that it is the right view and I think that Brian Davies has offered a good respnse in his paper on the Problem of Evil. Also, here is a dissertation, if anyone is interested:

      how God knows contingent facts (e.g. the prayers) without changing is arguably the most difficult question.Hence my sympathy for negative theology. Further more, I agree with what you implicate, if people would be damned because God determined their action which led to it, God wouldn´t be worthy of worship, a cosmic Hitler, like DB Hart would say. What I object however is your use of the words supposed to describe God, as if you can understand what they entail. I would deny that we have that capacity, especially when we can´t see Gods essence.
      Another argument would be that prayers are only futile if we already suppose that revelation is impossible.
      As to the predetermination, I really recommend to at least take a look at the paper I linked above. I don´t want to argue for for Thomas´ position, I personally am more sympathetic to Scotus´ libertarianism, but I want to object to the idea that Thomism leads to determinism. Stump is cited in the dissertation several times and I recommend checking her perspective out.
      For the formulation "EVerything that is changed is changed by another", it can be said that there are more modest versions attributed to Aquinas, like "If something changes from being potentially F to being actually F then there must be some actual being that initiates this change." by Oderberg. But either way the first version should only be problematic if we take causality to necessitate the outcome, something I would deny and what Anscombe already objected to in "Causation and Determination".
      I don´t necessarily endorse every aspect of Thomism and acknowledge that there are several significant problems. I don´t think however that your objections are correct.

    3. Callum/Aristotles Jedi, I just want to say that I´m sorry to see you go through a seemingly painful time. I always appreciated your thoughts here or on the old forum.

    4. This is only a problem if you are willing to accept the full mechanics of Thomistic account of Divine foreknowledge I think.

    5. Thanks for the responces guys,

      First Dominik. I'll have to check the new forum out and drop by, last time I had trouble logging in on my phone. Thanks for the concern.

      As for God's attributes and his interacting with the world there's not too much disagreement. I'm a big fan of Stump and have both her 2003 book on Aquinas and her little book "The God of the Bible and the God of the philosophers". I agree that she is the best approach to maintaining libertarianism on Thomism. I'll check out the dissertation thanks.

      What I will say concerns me more is the theory of act/potency. Oderberg has actually gone of record defending a Divine promotion model where God literally moves you to will what you will and when you will it -

      I think this destroys moral responsibility.

      Anyway I'm currently reading Mark K Spencer who's giving the best shot at reconciling the two I know.


      How you doing? You haven't by any chance kept up to date with the whole powers and theories if time have you?

    6. Read Garrigou-Lagrange :-)

    7. Callum.
      I am good. And well I generally find that sort of topic very interesting so I read a lot but I don't understand enough to develop a real coherent view yet. Anything specific you would like to discuss?

      And what do you make of the response given to the particular problem in the article you've linked to?

    8. Anonymous - GL is straight forwardly a theological determinist. I don't see him successfully defending compatibilist.


      Well as it stands I find Blackmanns paper pretty convincing (from what I can tell Ed agrees too). You can't be an Aristotelian and hold a B theory of time.

      As for Oderberg's paper, I think he dodges the question. He mentions Leeway and what some call 'transfer' principles as worries to compatibilist (successful worries in my view) but doesn't really rebut them. Rather seems to tentatively suggest we hold a different view of 'metaphysically substantial freedom'. In other words, he seems to argue that the general Thomistic position demonstrates theological determinism and for that reason must adjust our views on freedom accordingly.

      I don't think that follows. You could just be a theist on Thomism and argue that we don't have morally responsible free will. You could be a Thomist and not religious. There's enough going for Christianity that I'm not so keen on doing that, so I'm looking to keep a theological indeterminist view and see if it can be reconciled with the gist of Thomism.

    9. In that case I agree that Mark K Spencer is best shot at reconciling the two. Though I also suggest you read and try to wrap your head around the sort of claims made in the relevant section of the paper once more, I feel like there might be something to those points he makes.

      And It should be noted that he isn't completely wrong to question the so called consequence argument and its transfer principle. From what I know its generally very controversial, I can link texts related to this if you want.
      But of course I also find these sort of arguments against compatibalism intuitively plausible. Bottom line is that there is much learning to be done here.

    10. And as you know I have always found the thesis Backmann argues for, very plausible even before ever reading his paper, though I no longer think that it amounts to a refutation of AT. But philosophy of time seems like the most muddled category of philosophy, it seems philosophers can't even agree on names and definitions of major thesis much less on what is true so I would still wait for other developments on this.
      What do you think of Presentism , how plausible it is in your view?

    11. Red,

      What do you mean that it no longer think it refutes AT philosophy?

      you think AT is after all compatible with the B theory or that B theory isn't correct?

      It was through thinking about the will, its relationship to the intellect and causal powers in general that I've come to think Ed is essentially correct - science cannot coherently rule those out. If the B theory cannot make room for those facts then it is untenable. whether we go for presentism or growing block theory or what have you, im not sure. I'm actually looking forward to Ed's response to Nigel Cundy regarding Aristotle's revenge and time!

    12. I think B theory might not be correct.

  21. Aquinas often says, in place of evidence, that something is "fitting". I reject his intuition. As for arguments, he has none

    1. Yeah, that Aquinas guy was never making arguments.

    2. Quite apart from the obvious trolling, and since all anonymouses are the same and the one exemplar anonymouse as there is no way to distinguish would-be two anonymouses, what we witness is an anonymouse boxing with himself. There is something really uncanny in this.

    3. grodrigues, the correct plural is 'anonymice'.

  22. Two evil men, A and B, are both destined for hell if they don't repent before they die. As they are robbing a bank, A is shot dead by the guard, B is caught and sent to prison for life. B, with plenty of time to reflect on his evil past, becomes a model prisoner who repents, accepts Christ, and dies fifty years later with a decent hope for salvation. A, though, having died in a state of sin, seems to have little chance of salvation, even though it is probable that had he survived and B been killed, A would have done as B actually did, that is, repented. But then it is only chance that has allowed for B's repentance and possible salvation, and only chance and bad luck that guarantees A's condemnation. A bit unfair?

    1. Yes, absolutely. Because of thoughts like that, as well as the religious experiences and well-attested miracle claims across the religious spectrum, I have come to reject every kind of particularism. I think that Christianity is true, but that doesn´t necessitate adherents of other religions being wrong or damned, a thought that Pope Francis and former Pope Benedict seemed to endorse as well. Views on salvation differ much. Even among denominations.

    2. My first inclination is to look upon the Second Person of the Holy Trinity crucified for sinners and ask "Is this fair?" We don't want fair, because fair would be the damnation of all sinners, it seems to me.
      To make the question a bit more extreme, consider the Blessed Virgin. She was preserved from every stain of sin for her whole life. Now consider Adam through whom all humanity fell. Is it fair that God did not preserve Adam and all his offspring, but did so for Mary?
      I suspect that the difficulty revolves around a couple of questions: What do we mean by "fair" or what standard of fairness is God subject to? Why would we expect fairness in the supernatural order, when we don't see it in the natural or just social orders?

    3. God cannot be unfair. And no one can lose their soul simply because of a "chance" affair or something that is entirely outside of their own hands.

      God wills the salvation of every human person, everyone, even the very worst sinner, and He will try to bring everyone to Himself until the very last moment of death. I think even Sister Faustina's diary mentions how God is always calling upon sinners and ofering His mercy, to the very last moment of their lives.

      We should not be presumptuous, and we should care for our salvation, but we can also be assured that no one will get lost simply because of some chance affair or something else they had no control over.

      He went as far as being crucified for us and taking upon Himself all the sins of the world, after all.

      So if someone really gets lost, it's because of their own choice and obstination, and not because of chance or anything like that. God will take everything into account in His judgment, so we need not worry about whether God will be "unfair", of course.

    4. It is not unfair.

      Person A, who is shot dead, had his entire life up until that point, to "accept" God, and to lead a virtuous life. This one moment was the end of his life though, which would have come at some point anyway. Maybe, after the successful robbery, he would have been hit by a car going 50 mph. No one knows. What we do know is that there is free will, and that there is always a choice.

      Seeing this as unfair would mean that Person B being sentenced to prison is also unfair. It's the same thing, really.

  23. So, can non-christians somehow have some contact with the Holy Spirit or something? I'am not saying this because of miracles on other traditions, for we can aways say "demons helped, lol".

    What gets me confused is that others religions can produce amazing ascetics and mystics with a lot of love for everybody and self-denial when they should not have divine help. Do they do that with sheer meditation and willpower? So many saints had difficult changing even with the help of the Lord...

    How should a catholic see these amazing guys on other religions?

    1. I´m sympathetic to DB Harts position, but I know that it is sadly not very popular among the conservative traditionalists

    2. Didn't Vatican II explicitly say that the Holy Spirit can be active in other religions, and calls them to union with the Church? And even before Vatican II, if you go to someone like Saint Thomas Aquinas, he mentions approvingly how there can be miracles in other religions - and not by demons, but by God Himself; Aquinas mentions a story about a vestal virgin with a vase that had broken, but the water didn't spill etc (I don't remember the details) and mentions how God could perform such miracles with the intention of stimulating and approving a certain virtue among people (such as chastity, in this case).

      Seems pretty obvious to me that Catholics can believe God can perform miracles in other religions - out of sheer mercy and love, such as in miraculous healings, providential arrangements etc., or with the intention of approving certain virtuous practices, or to ultimately get someone (somehow) closer to the Church, and so on.

      So I do believe the Holy Spirit has worked through non-Catholic, even non-Christian, mystics and religions.

    3. The Holy Ghost acts everywhere in this world. Of course, God uses also non-Christians. He is the God and Lord of all, not just of Christians. Since the HG is a person of God, He can use whatever and whomever in His plan.

      Miracles do exist in other religions, as has been held even by Counterreformation theologians, but those miracles are not divine miracles, but demonic miracles. Christ especially warns us about false prophets and false miracles, which lead us away from God rather than to Him.

      Other than that, many religions have "elements of truth", as Vatican II teaches (and which can be upheld even by traditionalists like myself). This is partly because we as humans can recognize God via the natural light of our reason.

    4. It's in The Power of God. The question is "Do devils also act to work miracles?", objection 5, Aquinas answers that God probably performed the miracle for the vestal virgin. Try googling it.

  24. Demonic Possessions

    How should Thomist metaphysics of human being explain demonic possessions?

    1. I think this is an interesting question.

      What are the best books/papers which explore angels/demons/separated intelligences from a Thomistic perspective?

      Would all who consider themselves Thomists today defend belief in angels and demons?

      And what are your thoughts on demonic possession?

  25. So it is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a contradiction within most doctrines in LGBT group. Most interestingly it seems the entire category of B is contrived to strike down any criticism of such inclinations as immutable.

  26. Dr. Feser, it appears to me that traditional Catholics typically regard the original Catholic Encyclopedia as a safe, trustworthy, and useful resource, so I've taken to using it myself. However, I don't often see them taking the same attitude towards the New Catholic Encyclopedia in any of its editions. I realize that part of this may be due to accessibility, as the original is in the public domain and available online while the New is not. But at the same time, the original was published during the Neo-Scholastic period, while the New, in all of its editions, was published during the post-Vatican II, nouvelle theologie period. So I'm led to ask: is the New considered a safe source from the perspective of traditional Catholicism, or must we be wary while using it of nouvelle theologie influences, neo-modernism, and the like? And how does it compare to the original in this respect? Also, is this another part of the reason for why I don't see traditional Catholics referencing it as much as the original, or is that just me? Thanks.

    1. I'm not Dr. Feser, but a "trad", and so I can say from MY perspective that I would be very cautious when it comes to any encyclopedia.

      The new CE has the advantage that it is in some articles more conformed to recent discoveries and progress in scientific research. Some sources were simply unknown to the authors a hundred years ago. Thus, the new CE can be a valuable resource. However, don't simply accept/believe what is written there. Especially when it comes to religious topics.

      In any case, today's scientific discourse is so heavily divided that I would say there is not a single reliable source for any topics, but that there are many different opinions. If you want to follow one opinion, youu have to have good reasons and arguments.

      In no way is a work published after V2 a "safe, trustworthy" resource - helpful maybe.

      The older CE is not as inaccurate as one may think. I am from the field of liturgical science. The older CE was written before the liturgical reformation, and so one could think that the texts it offers are now too old and too inaccurate, since the liturgical scholars of the 60's and 70's have given us new data, concerning mostly the pristine, ancient form of worship.
      That is, however, not true. The 60's and 70's were highly ideological, and the findings in the liturgical field have mostly proven to be wrong. The older CE in many articles, gives accurate accounts of liturgical questions. For example, that the Roman Rite is the oldest of ALL Christian rites, and that the Ambrosian Rite is not the more ancient one (which was a postulate of the liturgical reformers). Or take as another example Communion in the hand: It was postulated that this was the praxis of the first Christians. Which is not true. You may find this claim in the newer CE.

    2. Thanks for the response, Anon. But would you really be “VERY cautious” about ANY encyclopedia? Even the original Catholic Encyclopedia, or an encyclopedia which did not focus on theological subjects like, say, the Encyclopedia of Business and Finance?
      I might not be perfectly understanding you. By my meaning of caution, I don’t suppose that the only other alternative is to take a source as 100% accurate and comprehensive. I realize that, for example, the original Catholic Encyclopedia wouldn’t be described as meeting this mark. I’ve even seen it say things which seemed in tension with other Neo-Scholastic era resources dealing with dogmatic theology. I realize that other sources should also be consulted, but that’s not my concern.
      What I AM concerned to be cautious about is the general spirit in which a work is produced. I wouldn’t be very cautious about the original because I think it was produced in a good spirit, systematically speaking, but I’m worried that the New Catholic Encyclopedia might be a different story. However, I’m not so sure. You speak about the ideology of the 60s and 70s, which is definitely a legitimate concern, but you seem to neglect the fact that I was asking about ALL of the New’s editions. There was an edition published in the 2000s which stripped some of the scientific articles, updated some of the existing materials, added new articles, etc. And my understanding is that things have de-radicalized a bit since the 60s and 70s (you don’t have as many seminary professors running around teaching their students that the Bodily Resurrection of Christ didn’t happen, I’m pretty sure).
      So the question is partially one of degree: how much caution is necessary for such a case? I get that some so-called scientific updates can be ideological shams, but there’s also the fact that the New covers some topics which the original doesn’t even have articles for (and vice versa, I think). Further, it seems the New has bibliography after EVERY article, while the original does not (unless the printed version is different on this score). And in the spirit of consulting multiple sources, I must say that there have been occasions where the New cleared up obscurities I’ve found in the original. But I appreciate that you acknowledge this type of stuff in your response. And I’m really not very concerned about inaccuracy in the original, only gaps in material or clarity (which is rare). If I want to find valuable resources on a particular topic, I want a reliable encyclopedia which can steer me to these after an introduction. The original is awesome, but does not always do this. Hence I’d look to a secondary reference work for the job, but unfortunately the current state of things seems to necessitate that I go about this business gingerly.

  27. Nice! I've got two doubts that've been in my mind some time now...
    (1) How can the principle of causality ("That which moves is moved by another") be reconciled with animal self-movement? I get that animals only move themselves in a loose sense, and that in fact, whenever an animal moves, you have one part of it that moves another part, and so on. But if we keep this "so on" going, it seems to end up denying self-movement even in that loose sense, since there's going to be a time when we will have so say that something outside the animal moved one of the animal's parts (indeed, the first animal part that got moved). For instance, Dr. Feser in his books always says something like this (not a literal quote): "When an animal moves, it is always one part of it that is moving another. The legs are moved by the muscles, the muscles are moved by the firing of the motor neurons, those neurons are moved by other neurons, and so on". But wouldn't this lead us to say that, at some point, "a" neuron (or "a" group of neurons) was moved by something outside the animal? It doesn't seem right to keep this chain of moving causes infinitely inside the animal itself. So, wouldn't this deny self-movement after all? The other option would be to say there is something in the animal itself that is always in act, but this doesn't seem right either...
    (2) How can the principle of causality be reconciled with freedom of the will? I think this is the primary point of dissent with Mollinism, that for Mollinism the will moves itself whereas for Thomism it is God who moves the will, albeit freely. The problem I've got is, on the one hand, that affirming that the will moves itself from potency to act denies the principle of causality and, with it, puts the 5 ways in danger; but, on the other hand, I can't get to reconcile God's premotion of the will with free will. Thomas says in the Summa that God moves the will to act but in a way that the will remains free; in fact, that God makes the movement of the will free. But I can't make sense of such a thing!
    Thank you to all!!


      You are welcome.

      Also, i'd email Eleonore Stump and see if she responds. She doesn't go the compatibilist route.

    2. it seems to end up denying self-movement even in that loose sense, since there's going to be a time when we will have so say that something outside the animal moved one of the animal's parts (indeed, the first animal part that got moved). For instance, Dr. Feser in his books always says something like this (not a literal quote): "When an animal moves, it is always one part of it that is moving another. The legs are moved by the muscles, the muscles are moved by the firing of the motor neurons, those neurons are moved by other neurons, and so on". But wouldn't this lead us to say that, at some point, "a" neuron (or "a" group of neurons) was moved by something outside the animal? It doesn't seem right to keep this chain of moving causes infinitely inside the animal itself. So, wouldn't this deny self-movement after all?

      I think this is only a problem if we think that movement or causal activity of later members in series is completely reducible to the prior members. But that isn't true as any substances in the causal chain exercise their own causal powers its just that they don't do it independently of power of those which are prior to it.

  28. Anyone familiar with Tovia Singer? He's written books and has videos on Youtube on why Jews don't accept Christianity. An awful lot of people (including myself) tend to find him convincing. Are there any rebuttals available?

    1. I think WLC had a quick 10 minutes or so. Maybe Licona too? check reasonable faith website.

  29. It would be great to see the blog address the criticisms that have been made of its orthodoxy. I keep coming back to this (as a Catholic, there is little choice) yet not a sound yet from Edward concerning the serious problems concerning his ideas on the nature of faith original sin, the origin of man and other issues.

    This is in stark contrast with his anger and theatrics when dealing with my criticism of his anglo-conservatism as a possible explanation for his heterodoxy. Interesting to note that any comments concerning questions of doctrine are carefully deleted, while he plays to his (largely conservative) audience here when the subject is his dubious political agenda.

    The reason is clear: he knows that he can get away with insulting and belittling those who disagree with him on political grounds, but also knows to the core of his A.T sympathetic being that he will not be caught attacking someone who criticises his lack of orthodoxy for the reasons I have. This, for the very simple reasons that he wishes to be on good terms with many people (some of whom I know), who hold identical positions on these questions of doctrine.
    So I can only expect personal abuse, and not a squeak on doctrinal questions. The double standard may seem to work in an artificial world controlled by someone's delete button, but the truth will out, as St. Thomas would say.

    As an approach to dealing with the doctrine that has been sullied, it stinks.

    1. Didn't he ban you as a troll? Perhaps the secret to his interactions with you lie there?

    2. I hope you won't be crushed by being informed that the blog host's pronouncements when throwing a tantrum might not be a locus theologicus. My fault lies in saying what orthodox Catholics think on certain doctrinal opinions aired on this blog. I'm not ashamed of being a repeat offender.

    3. Let everyone speak here guys this is the thread for these types of things.

    4. Can you provide evidence that Ed (or A-T philosophy generally) teaches unorthodox ideas regarding "the nature of faith original sin, the origin of man and other issues?"

      Say what you will about the politics here either but I've seen no substantive arguments that his views on evolution are not fully compatible with Catholic teaching.

    5. There is somewhere you can see what I have to say. It's not news for those concerned but they've never taken the trouble to reply. It's a pity, as the issues concerning doctrine are important and will continue to exist regardless of whether I shut up or not. It's true that on most of these points he has been silent for a long time. If this indicates a change in stance that's great, but how will anyone know?

    6. Red, I don't think it's a thread for actual trolls, and banned ones no less, is it? If Santi or SP turned up, would they be welcome?

    7. I have no idea what you mean by banned. He is posting.

    8. Feser told him to get lost. You can't ban people on blogspot unless you moderate all comments and don't let their comments through.

    9. Look just let him speak here Ok, his points could be worth engaging with...we can police other threads.

    10. btw is this the same guy who wrote that annoying piece about Feser's view of biology and Catholic doctrines?

    11. He's the guy who set up an entire website to snipe at Feser. Lately he's been going on about Feser and conservatism. He's an obsessive and a sophist. He also has zero respect for this blog, as he ignored Feser telling him to get lost. It's a bad idea to feed him even here.

    12. Cervantes must be shut down once and for all. He belongs to that infamous species of very dangerous individuals who may mislead newcomers into thinking Thomism and Catholicism are incoherent and that Dr Feser is lying.

      I speak from experience here. In the beginning, I used to get really worried every time I encountered someone (whether an atheist, a nonreligious theist, a non-Catholic Christian, an anti-Thomistic Catholic, or even a self-professed "Thomist") confidently asserting there's some "obvious" fatal error in Aquinas and/or the Neo-Scholastic Thomists' reasonings (I feared it might be some mistake I still hadn't been made aware of, but which would send the entire edifice crashing down as soon as I grasped it). It actually took me a couple of years of scrupulously going multiple times through every last detail of all the arguments, objections and counterarguments to finally become convinced that this sort of people who fashion themselves as "faithful Catholics" and "Thomists" don't even understand the most fundamental aspects of what they think they are attacking.

      Take Cervantes.

      He loves to accuse Dr Feser of "Anglo-Conservatism" (whatever that is) and of subscribing to the doctrines of a series of modern philosophers who had nothing to do with Catholicism. Yet any honest person who's followed Dr Feser for a while has of course learned that he vehemently critiques these philosophers, all of whom are, in one way or another, descendants of the nominalism of William of Ockham and of the consequent abandonment of formal and final causality.

      Then there's his adherence to typical non-Thomistic (or even Protestant) positions, such as a fideistic despisal of natural theology and a commitment to an occasionalist flavour of creationism and intelligent design. And he misunderstands the classical realist concept of human nature, as well as original sin, whence he espouses the Baianist heresy.

      Besides, many of the so-called objections he raises rest on readings that are simply not acceptable given doctrines that any Thomist worth his salt should take for granted, like divine simplicity, analogical predication, and the convertibility of the transcendentals.

      Cervantes loves raising straw men, equivocating, and projecting on his opponents his own leaps of logic. He is dishonest, uncharitable, and unknowledgeable regarding Thomism and even the most basic logic and critical reasoning skills.

      Also, as it turns out, someone has indeed gone through the hassle of refuting point-by-point his feserismisnotthomism nonsense:

      If you've been fooled by Cervantes, it's definitely worth a read. (By the way, note that he's been explicitly told before that this rebuttal exists, yet he still has the nerve to complain about how nobody dares to explain to him where his mistakes are.)

  30. Does anyone have any opinions on the validity of Julian Jaynes' bicameral mind theory, particularly in regard to the origin of religious belief? Forgive me if I am oversimplifying or misunderstanding Jaynes' argument, but he seems to state that until roughly 3000 years ago human beings lacked self consciousness as we experience it today. Before this time people existed in a somewhat schizophrenic state, mistakenly interpreting their own thoughts as external commands from the gods. As a result, religions stemming from this era would appear to stand on shaky foundations, emerging from the hallucinations of preconscious peoples. Jaynes relies on ancient texts such as the Iliad and the oldest sections of the Bible as his evidence, arguing that these texts display a distinct lack of character introspection that we see in later works like the Odyssey. Jaynes' studies on this topic emerged in the 1970s and have remained controversial ever since, but have found new popularity in recent years thanks to Westworld. The topic of bicameralism offers much potential for interesting scifi stories like that one (and Snow Crash too), but I haven't found much serious scholarly feedback or critiques to Jaynes'work. His evidence seems rather sparse to me, but I am neither an expert in psychology or in analyzing ancient texts. What do you all think?

    1. He somehow managed to come up with a scenario that is at the same level as Freuds. I think we can safely conclude that the lack of scholarly engagement here is for the same reason as with Carriers work on the New Testament

    2. I am pretty baffled by how anyone could come up with this theory, and if you have accurately summarized it, then I would not waste any more time on it.

      It is doubtfully intelligible that people could in general mistake their own thoughts for commands from gods. That itself requires having thoughts such as that there are gods. And I don't even know what it would mean to mistake most of my thoughts for commands, since they don't have imperative form. And command is not so central every other religion as it is to Abrahamic ones.

      It is true that ancient literature displays less introspection than modern literature does but this is hardly grounds for thinking that the ancients did not engage in introspection.

      This may also be controversial for the Cartesians in the crowd, but I'd say that insofar as 'self-consciousness' is a respectable philosophical topic, it's not a matter of introspection.

  31. I have a novice/newbie question regarding Feser's version of Aristotle's argument in Five Proofs. I apologise for my poor understanding.

    In relation to the actualization of water in a glass, what sort of potentials does he have in mind? Is he saying that when hydrogen and oxygen are combined there could have been different potential outcomes. E.g. the combination could explode or could turn into an apple. Or maybe the molecules just wouldn't combine. Is that what he has in mind? I.e. different "laws" of chemistry/physics, which are probably just descriptions of what happens. Or is he talking about potential non-existence of the molecules themselves?

    1. I think Feser is just pointing out that water's own existence/actuality depends on the actual combination of the molecules of hydrogen and oxygen. He is not discussing different laws; it is just an illustration of the continuous actualization of things. Oxygen and hydrogen each have a potential to be combined with one another (they also each have a potential to be combined with other molecules, which would produce different substances and effects), and when this potential is actualized we end up with water.

      Your own body is only real right now because of a whole chain of actualized potentialities. Your flesh, organs and so on would fail to exist as they do (would be a mere potential) if they weren't being actualized right now by all the cells that make them up, which in turn are actualized by further chemical substances, which in turn are actualized by certain particles, and so on. And as a whole, your body's own potential subsistence is actualized by the oxygen that you inhale right now, the oxygen is actualized by the molecules which are only actual thanks to some other environmental conditions, etc.

      These are all illustrations to show the more general point that there is "change" in the world: actualization of potentiality. The existence and activity of things around us are dependent and conditioned upon other things. It's a bunch of potentialities that are actualized. X is actual instead of merely potential because its potentiality is actualized by Y, which in turn has its potentials actualized by Z, which in turn... And so on. But obviously this cannot proceed to infinity, otherwise the whole series of conditions for the existence and operation of each thing would never be fulfilled, since one thing can only actualize another only insofar as it is itself already actual; it would only be indefinitely postponed into infinity. So there must be one being that is completely independent; that just is purely actual, and is not conditioned, not actualized by anything else - it just is pure act.

    2. Also, Vincent, if you are interested in some other popular books about the existence of God, I'd recommend these two:

      "How Reason Can Lead to God", by Joshua Rasmussen. This is a very, very good book. It is very simple and accessible. It is easier than Feser's book, and also differs from his approach a bit - and I think you will like the arguments. Give it a try, I think you will really enjoy it; highly recommend it, it is one of the best popular-level books on the existence of God out there, imo.

      "Who designed the designer?" by Michael Augros. This book is closer to Feser's own arguments, as the writer is also a thomist. But it is more popular-level; it is easier to read and follow than Feser's work.

      Feser's "Five Proofs" is really good, and it can be understood by average readers, but these books are more popular-level and would make a good complement to your reading.

    3. Thanks Atno! I will find these books; both look really excellent.

  32. Does anyone have any recommendations for where to read up on the contemporary analytic conception of a property?

  33. @Atno

    Pretty interesting. Do you think you can find this comments from Saint Thomas? The idea that God can use people from other faiths makes sense, especcialy if you consider that there ascetics and mistics where the closest to truth that people could get in non-christians cultures.

    1. It's in The Power of God. The question is "Do devils also act to work miracles?", objection 5, Aquinas answers that God probably performed the miracle for the vestal virgin. Try googling it.

  34. When someone is arguing for God based on the real distinction between essence and existence, can one use this argument without delving into the technicalities and complexities of Aristotelian-thomistic essentialism, hylemorphism, substantial form, prime matter, and so on? Can the proponent of this argument just say that the essence of a thing is what it is and the existence of a thing is that it is, and then argue that these two principles must really be distinct in contingent beings? Or, does one need to explain all the intricacies and details of Aristotelian-thomistic essentialism specifically in order for the argument to work?

    1. You don't have to explain all the details of Aristotelian-Thomistic essentialism, but the argument needs some further support, at least because the dominant modern position is that it is a logical confusion to think of a thing's existence as a kind of thing at all.

    2. Barry Miller's work for example essentially aims to make that argument in an analytic context, but there is a lot of ground that he has to clear before he can do so.

  35. Bear with me on this, I have a question which some here might be able to answer, though it arises from a totally different source.

    I've just gotten Seapower States, by Andrew Lambert. I was a bit suspicious, as Lambert is very uneven; when good, quite good, but when he goes off on theory-building, he dives into exactly the sort of history which is my bete noir. He's a "lumper" of the sort people here might recognize in C S Lewis's "New Learning and New Ignorance" in his OHEL volume. That is, trying to tie everything into a neat bundle to fit whatever theory the author wishes to push.

    Well, in this case, one of Lambert's theses is that Catholicism is inimical to a nation's becoming a true seapower state. He does this by playing a bit of a shell game with Portugal and Genoa, while arguing that Venice was "really" Catholic.

    But he bases this, really, on the claim that "clerics detested the ocean." And this is based on a claim that "St Augustine's deeply negative assessment of the ocean and seafaring remained potent in Catholic nations." Also on "the influence of St Augustine, architect of the Catholic Church's perception that the sea was a 'licentious' or corrupting place, even if it could be used to spread the word of God."

    He gives no citation for this, other than to a Phd thesis in Rotterdam (and that doesn't sound as if it's particularly relevant.

    So, my question is, does anyone here know what he's talking about? It doesn't ring a bell to me, and I'd think I'd recall such a thesis, if it were at all prominent. My guess is he's stretching, but that's just a guess.

  36. It sounds like the usual Black Legend prejudice. Castile and Portugal were sea-based empires. Until the seventeenth century, no overseas European possessions belonged to other countries, while Protestants were still bottled up around the North Sea. They were limited to asymmetric warfare against the hegemonic power of the day in 1605 (when a fine book was first published) and for some time after that. Non-Catholics were latecomers to the domination of modernity, but have made up for it by reading history backwards.

    1. That isn't Lambert's point. I didn't go into the weeds because I don't think it's relevant.

      I just would like to know about (a) Where Augustine said that, and (b) Just whence comes the idea this was a big deal in Catholic culture.

      But your answer is off the point.

  37. This is probably a problem others have brought up, but I've long wanted to know the answer to this question: How are we supposed to understand Aquinas' fifth way?
    Dr. Feser understands it, I think something like this:
    1) Non-living things need something to order them to an End, or else they wouldn't fulfill any action- either being totally inert, or behaving completely at random.
    2) If this thing exists, it must be God. (I guess. I don't remember any defense of 2), but it must be there).
    3) But, non-living things do have typical behaviors.
    4) Therefor, God exists

    But, there's this problem with 1): why should non-living things need more of an End then living things? Even things with a will? One way that I've heard this defended, is to say this is talking about the Forms; that all things act according to their Form, and this Form has an End, and that's where we get 1) from; but this is just as true of living as of non-living things.

    I could interpret this as a more sophisticated, less Mechanistic version of the Watchmaker Argument, thusly:
    a) Non-living things have essentially non-living ends.
    b) Only something transcending the physical world- ultimately, as intimately related to the Final End, probably as part of it (because of Aquinas' analysis of Life)- could bring a non-living thing to a living end.
    c) But, we can pull a living thing into non-living parts.
    d) Therefore, God must exist- at least so as to give the creator of physical life purpose.

    But, I don't see any trace of step C) in the actual 5th way! Any clues, anyone?

    1. Come to think of it, I think Dr. Feser would give this defense of my 2): That God- and only God- would be that which gives ALL things their purpose! Hope that helps!