Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Aquinas 101


The Thomistic Institute has added to the great work it is already doing by introducing Aquinas 101, “a series of free video courses… that help you to engage life’s most urgent philosophical and theological questions with the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas.”  Here are four brief and lucid examples: Fr. Dominic Legge on the problem of evil, Fr. James Brent on the principle of non-contradiction, Fr. Thomas Joseph White on the abiding relevance of Aquinas, and Fr. Gregory Maria Pine on how to read the Summa Theologiae.  Check them out and enroll today!

47 comments:

  1. I love those videos and already enrolled in it.

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  2. The ability to access the Thomistic Institute via the web may single-handedly justify the existence of modern technology.

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    1. Counter Rebel,

      When you have something to offer instead of straw men, sophomoric insults, temper tantrums, and, in general, trolling of the lowest quality kind - and right out of the gate, at that! -- then I won't have to delete your comments.

      Until then, kindly get lost. Any further crap of the sort you've been posting will also be deleted.

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    1. OK, CR, I will let this stand because it is a (relatively) sober comment, albeit directed at a straw man. You write:

      If you think people deserve eternal punishment for randomly ("freely") choosing B rather than A, you are a moron.

      Well, I agree with you that that would be moronic. Why you think this moronic view is my view, I have no idea.

      Free choices are in my view precisely the reverse of random, though they are not determined either. That is a false choice. If you'd like to know what I actually think on this subject before attacking it, you might listen to my recent talk on the metaphysics of the will:

      https://soundcloud.com/thomisticinstitute/what-is-the-nature-of-the-will-prof-edward-feser

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    3. First of all, your second paragraph simply begs the question insofar as it characterizes the situation precisely in a way that I would reject. If you'd bother to find out what my views actually are, you'd know that. Yet you refuse to do so. You'd rather attack a view without even knowing what the view is first -- all while calling other people morons.

      Second, and related, I would not characterize my position as libertarian, or compatibilist, or in any of the usual terms common these days, at least not without significant qualification. Again, you'd know this if you had bothered to find out what my views actually are instead of making snotty remarks.

      And as to those remarks, I will give you one more chance to grow up and cut that crap out, or I will delete all future comments from you.

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    5. Counter Rebel,
      Will what is on page 1 of your book be random? What about page 2?

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    7. Counter Rebel,

      The randomness objection begs the question, dude. A lot of compatibilists and determinists would admit it; they just don't think there is another category other than the ones they consider (deterministic vs random). It's totally question-begging. Libertarians would insist that we choose A over B because A motivated us in some way (didn't determine us) and we freely chose A over B.

      It's not strictly the same inputs, if you consider the input of the free choice of A over B. But part of the idea is precisely that the agent can be faced with two options and choose between any of them, and this choice won't be either deterministic or random - it will be volitional. You just don't accept it. Fine. But a libertarian would, and it begs the question against him to force him to give up on sui generis free actions.

      You complain that he cannot fit his triangular peg into either the square hole or the round hole. He agrees, but he believes it fits in the triangular hole he see. At this point you're just insisting that he ignore his triangular hole and only deal with your square and round holes.

      What I don't understand is how or why you don't realize that you're begging the question. It wouldn't force you to give up your position - maybe your intuition that all acts are either random or deterministic is as strong as my intuition and experience that there are genuine, sui generis free acts, for example.

      And I'm sorry your experience with Catholicism was bad. But you should understand that it's the opposite for a lot of people. There are some people who only ever get existential comfort and peace of mind from the Catholic faith. And really, quit the random insults, dude, it's weird.

      Look at your rambling. It seems you need to chill, take a break and find something more positive to do. Trolling like that isn't healthy. Go out with some friends, spend time with family, think of something else. Apparently, you've had some serious psychological problems and depression, which can be really bad, and I think trolling or being anti-social here really isn't good for you, and it's kinda useless. Go do something else, something more positive.

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    8. Especially if you wanna write a book, btw. Because people will be less inclined to take your book seriously if you keep acting this way.

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    10. I hope to write a book so that the whole world will know that free will is randomness.
      ..
      For a mental coin toss


      Technically a coin toss is not random, it's chaotic, which is different.

      In any case arguing that free will is "random" is pretty much in contradiction of when we see in both science and direct experience.

      Also... today everyone is writing a book, not that hard anymore.

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      What will you intend in one second? Oops...it's here already. It was random.

      Is that supposed to be an argument? Free will does not mean ALL our thoughts are conscious and decided through the will.

      If I hit you in the face you will probably cry in pain whether you want it or not, but that does not invalidate free will.

      You seem to be thus very much confused what thought, intentionality and will are.

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      I hope to start writing the book when I turn 27. van Gogh didn't pick up a paintbrush till he was 27 (if I recall correctly). That gives me 6 months to gather up all my notes. I've been doing a lot of reading and highlighting.

      Yeah but Van Gogh had talent...

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      Now for the nutjob strawman showcase:

      I'm sick to death of Catholics abusing people with the doctrine of hell

      I'm sick to death of the government abusing people with the concept of prison for crimes. /sarcasm

      Really the moral of the story is: be a good person or suffer the consequences. Or are you saying we should stop punishing evil doers?

      teaching that sexuality is sinful unless you're lucky enough to get married and make 80k a year to feed a ton of children because you can't use birth control

      We do not teach sexuality is sinful. Also not using contraception does not mean you will have a ton of kids. Sometimes you get none (even if maybe you want them).

      According to many studies, if natural family planning is followed correctly, it can be up to 99% effective. This means that 1 woman in 100 who use natural family planning will get pregnant in 1 year, assuming the woman and the men are properly fertile (which is not always the case).

      If you are a person so horny that cannot control his impulses for a couple of days a month, then probably you have a mental compulsion problem.

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      driving people to clinical depression and near-suicide

      Catholics are usually very happy. You must be thinking of something else.

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      taking the joy out of being a teenager

      As a teenager I played sport, videogames, hanged out with friends, watched movies, etc... none of that is prohibited by the church.

      Even smoking Marijuana (which I did not even if I lived in Holland) is technically not a sin (or at least it's debated)

      Maybe your idea of having fun as a teen is doing criminal and immoral acts... then maybe the Church is not the problem but you are.

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      You ruin people’s adolescence (what should be the most fun time of life) and fill them with guilt over beautiful, natural sexual urges.

      Ah there it is. You are unhappy because you are a compulsive masturbator.

      Is being a teen for you all about wacking the meat? LOL

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      You seek to outlaw gay marriage and abortion.

      which are not good things. Burden of proof is on you to prove otherwise.
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      ruining lives...

      If helping people is ruining lives then yes.

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      Nope.

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      I learned from the opening pages of Scholastic Metaphysics that your late father was a Catholic. So I think during the years of your alleged atheism, there was always some part of your mind that had some residual attraction to Catholicism. You probably got around to wanting Catholicism to be true or feeling some residual fear of the Catholic hell ....

      That's called a genetic fallacy, in addition of being pure speculation.

      Maybe we might as well speculate you are whining here because one bad experience you are blowing out of proportion and nagging on a blog is cheaper than going to therapy. Just speculating.

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    13. "No, it doesn’t. There’s either a reason why the agent chose A *rather* than B, or there isn’t one (i.e. it is random)."

      It would seem to me that the "reason" behind a volitional choice would be "because he chose to".

      I'm still new to all this, but to be honest this whole argument strikes me as going back to the fundamental Cartesian/mechanistic vs Aristotelian causality issue. If you're looking at the world from a mechanistic picture, then there's no explaining causality at all beyond "A happens, therefore B happens (even if there's no fundamental reason why C shouldn't happen instead, or nothing should happen)". If you look at it from an Aristotelian picture, then causality is allowed to have all sorts of formal nuances. It would seem to me that if you go with Aristotle, you can have a pretty clear idea for how something can formally count as a "choice" as opposed to "a chance".

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    14. Michael it's the luck objection that's raised in contemporary analytic philosophy.

      There's really two aspects to it.

      1 - if there's no determinative reason for the agent to choose A over B does that mean he lacks control?

      2 - if there's no determinative reason to choose A over B does that mean we cannot explain A over B?

      So its really about control and explanation.

      It's quite well debated in the literature

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    15. Counter Rebel,

      I hope you're doing well mate. I know you had a tough time with these questions (big, fundamental questions of life).

      Hoping you flourish and find peace. Don't be offended by this but I'll pray for you (insofar as you mention Judaism I don't think you'll find that too bad).

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    16. I think what people believe is a matter of aesthetic preference, but we fool ourselves into thinking we're rational.

      I think there are many anti-rational forces in our world that attempt to keep up from reaching truth, but I fundamentally disagree that the world is irrational at its core or that all our attempts at understanding the world are ultimately irrational.

      And honestly, even if that were the truth, why should I believe you? You are also ultimately irrational. LOL

      And concerning your complaints about what the church teaches about hell and condoms, and the like, I would suggest that your view of reality as being ultimately inexplicable and irrational, is equally hellish, from my point of view. At the very least, we Catholics have some rational basis for our teachings, while you have no rational basis for yours.

      I think Pascal's wager here applies to a certain extent - if you are right, existence is hellish and pointless, and my Catholic beliefs are also irrational, hellish, and pointless. If I am right, existence is ultimately rational, we are equipped with faculties that can apprehend truth, and those faculties ultimatly lead us to the truth of God's existence... and you are in hell, or at least purgatory, because you rejected that truth.

      I like my odds better. At least my life has a point.

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    17. It begs the question because the point for the libertarian is that the agent chose A rather than B not because the motivating reasons for A were entirely sufficient for causing an action (since they're not deterministic), but because the person freely chose A instead of B. There is some motivation, by being impressed with A, which explains why A instead of B (a motivating factor), and a free choice which is required to kickstart the action. Both are sui generis categories for the libertarian which allow him to say A was chosen rather than B through a free choice. You keep begging the question because you do not accept these sui generis categories, and don't wanna allow them for a libertarian, but that's his categories.

      Hence you say that if B also motivated the agent, then we cannot use A's motivating factors for partially explaining the action. That is only the case if something can only "motivate" by some mechanistic act which either determines an action or randomly leads to an action. But of course, this begs the question against the libertarian and his sui generis category. The same goes for the free choice which kickstarted the action, which is a cause which does not entail the effect and which is due to a free choice and the motivating factors. You think that is just to redescribe the event and not to explain it, but that's not the case for a libertarian.

      So, yes, I (and many libertarians) am very much still convinced that the randomness objection begs the question. I find it strange that you do not admit this. But so be it.

      Again, I'm sorry you've had a bad experience with Catholicism, but you gotta understand that for a lot of people, including a lot of children, it's quite the opposite. It's a source of joy and existential peace. Why concentrate on negative impulses?

      Mentioning Dimond is just cheap trolling. Honestly, I think you should stop thinking about free will and chill out a little. Even if libertarian free will is true, as I believe, this does not mean you're blameworthy for everything, so you don't have to become super anxious or anything like that.

      Reading your posts it seems you have a lot of psychological issues, and it's not good. Seek help if you need it. Try to not obsess over free will or religion, get closer to your family or friends, do something that makes you feel better. Your behavior here isn't healthy. You're rambling and going on about personal issues. Some people here insult or make fun of you because they get annoyed at someone trolling a blog they like; it's not personal, as they don't know you.

      Please consider finding something better to do. Depression is a real thing and we don't know what else you might have; being anti-social here isn't good for you, and you don't need it. Find something positive to spend your time with, and take care.

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    18. A Counter Rebel,

      I think it is pretty silly to say that only rich people can follow the teachings of the Catholic Church. I myself have about $180,000 in student debt, so it is not as if I am swimming in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.

      I am sorry that you find the Catholic doctrines on chastity difficult. I think everyone does. Even Augustine did. But it is possible to conform to the teachings of the Church without bitterness. The early Christians were tortured and executed for their beliefs. We have it very easy by comparison. I also feel like Dr. Feser is probably not living in an ivory tower considering he has six (?) children. If you have children of your own, you would know that that is a silly and uncharitable remark.

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    19. That CR expects of Feser what he claims is impossible for any human is, of course, notwithstanding . . .

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    21. If people randomly select B rather than A, what is the point of writing a book, since people will randomly select to reject or accept it?

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    22. Whatever you say, CR. Good luck with your book, but try not to obsess over this stuff. I hope you'll feel better soon and will find better and more positive things to do. You probably need a long break.

      For those interested in the free will issue, what do you think of Huemer's proof of free will? The best reasons to believe in LFW for me come from introspective evidence, as well as some metaphysical considerations about the will. But Huemer appears to have come up with a valid argument with very plausible premises:

      https://www.owl232.net/papers/fwill.htm

      I feel like there might be some equivocation wrt the obligations or perhaps some question-begging, but it's not very simple to tackle. Maybe it's sound.

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    23. Forgot to mention that it might require one to reject randomness, since afaik the argument requires determinism as the competitor. But it's still interesting nonetheless.

      Huemer should be read more. I disagree with his political views, but his work on a lot of issues is top notch, especially epistemology. His "skepticism and the veil of perception" remains a great work, as well as ethical intuitionism

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    24. CR,
      I am sorry to hear that you were treated poorly in school, and by some of your family, and have had a really rough time with depression. Please go out and seek help, rather than fume against your perceived enemies online. I also wonder if you have ever been evaluated for autism spectrum disorder, because I am seeing things in your conduct here and in what you have said about your life that sound possibly related (I speak as someone with a child with ASD, although I am by no means an expert). Wishing you the best.

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    25. Stop feeding trolls. This guy is a troll Feser has had to tell to get lost multiple times. He fills the place with utter garbage. Many people have issues, but that's no excuse for trolling other people's comboxes. And you don't help him by feeding him.

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    26. The Lonely ProfessorJanuary 29, 2020 at 9:29 AM

      @Atto:

      "It begs the question because the point for the libertarian is that the agent chose A rather than B not because the motivating reasons for A were entirely sufficient for causing an action (since they're not deterministic), but because the person freely chose A instead of B. There is some motivation, by being impressed with A, which explains why A instead of B (a motivating factor), and a free choice which is required to kickstart the action."

      This is simply saying the person chose A instead of B because the person chose A instead of B.

      Isn't it more in line with libertarianism to say there is no contrastive explanation for why the person chose A instead of B? The "luck" objection is answered by saying that there is therefore nothing outside the agent's control which led to the choice of A.



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    27. You could say there is no contrastive explanation, but my point there is that a libertarian can hold that "person chose A instead of B" is an informative or self-explanatory contingent fact, if libertarian free choices are taken seriously as a sui generis category. After all, the whole point is that an agent can cause an effect E in a way that is neither deterministic nor random, but "free", and this is a sui generis category which the libertarian wants us to take seriously - especially given the introspective evidence that tells us such a category of act does indeed exist.

      Why did I choose A instead of B? Because A ultimately seemed better than B for me, but in a non-deterministic way (and not randomly either), as a motivating factor for my free action.

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  5. I was intrigued by the video on the problem of evil, which regards evil as a privation. It follows, surely, that absolute evil is absolute non-being, that is, the ultimate, and total, privation. But then evil in its absolute form would be unexperiencable and therefore something not suffered by anyone.

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    1. That's why there is no such thing as absolute evil. The idea that good and evil asre equal but opposite forces is a manichean one, not really a Christian one.

      Evil is always parasitic on the good which depends on being. Take for example a disease. There can be no disease if first there isn't a (healthy) body to experience it first, while the healthy body can exist in itself.

      Or, the evil of homicide would not exist if there wasn't the good of life first, while the good of life can exist in itself.

      Hence evil in itself does not exist, it's always something that leeches on the good.

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    2. FM, yes, what you say makes eminent sense. In a way you employ a kind of reverse Ansleam argument, that is, the very thought of absolute non-being guarantees its impossibility, and therefore the impossibility of absolute evil. I suspect that most atheist antipathy to Christianity comes out of the problem of evil, in particular that of undeserved suffering. Your remarks on being, non-being and evil remind us that the classical arguments for the existence of God can also be considered in the light of this perhaps much more emotive problem. One difficulty I have, though, with the notion of evil as a privation is the no doubt 'phenomenological' force of our experience of evil, especially suffering. For instance, blackness may be considered as the lack of light, but the experience of blackness is of a real phenomenon, not just a privation. Ditto with evil. Anyway, thanks for your response and its clarity.

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    3. Evil being a privation doesn't entail it not being real. On the PoE you should always consult Fr.Brian Davies, his book “The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil“ (the “Noachide“-Subreddit has a book link in the link list) as well as this three episodes of the clasical theism podcast which reads a paper in form of a dialogue by him on this topic: www.classicaltheism.com/evildialogue/

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    4. Thanks, Dominik. I'll certainly look up your recommendations.

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  6. Hey Ed are you debating Prof Oppy on Aristotelian and Thomistic again or different proofs this time around?

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    1. date is february 7th:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-80lQOlNOs

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    2. It is about the Leibnizian proof (PSR Cosmological Argument).

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  7. What would be the response of Aristotle to Thomas Reid. [that knowledge that a flame is hot is not similar in any way to the hotness of the flame.] And does Aquinas hold by the approach of Aristotle in this regard?

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  8. As for the discussion about free will,--- Michael Huemer has some discussion about this in the of his piece of "Why I Am Not An Objectivist". Kelley Ross also addresses this very shortly, but with the same answer (I think).

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  9. I think I got some of these via their podcasts rather than the video's. The podcasts were very good

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  10. The problem with free will is likely to be in the definition. The free will deniers do not define free will as the Thomists do.

    The deniers have a physics model of human action. And thus neglect the intellect part of the proper Thomist definition of the free will and are inescapably caught in the trap that the misapplication of physics created.

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    1. Physics is a tool for measuring matter; it's a tape measure. The only way you can get metaphysics out of a tape measure, is if you first put the metaphysics in the tape measure so you can read it back out.

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  11. That is philosophical garbage:

    Now, . . . the instances of evil suffered that we find in the natural order of things [are thought by some to be] analogous to that. When a lamb is eaten by a lion, the damage to the lamb amounts to a set of privations – for example, the absence of a limb, flesh, or skin that is torn away. Though bad considered in itself, the damage also plays a necessary part of a larger good, namely the flourishing of the lion. Lions of their nature can’t be the kinds of things they are without hunting prey like lambs, so that having the good of there being lions presupposes the bad of lambs being killed. In causing a world in which lambs are eaten by lions, then, God does not cause evil as such. Rather, he causes a world in which certain goods (namely the good of lambs having all their limbs, flesh, etc. unmolested) are absent, and these privations are not willed by him for their own sake, but rather as a concomitant of the good of there being lions in existence.

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    1. Your careful counterargument seems to have gone missing. Perhaps repost it?

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