Thursday, April 30, 2020

The burden of proof is on those who impose burdens (Updated)

I have argued both that the lockdown was a justifiable initial reaction to the Covid-19 crisis, and that skeptics ought nevertheless to be listened to, and listened to more earnestly the longer the lockdown goes on.  Here’s one front line doctor who argues that it has gone on long enough and should be eased up.  Is he right?  Maybe, though I don’t have the expertise to answer with certainty, and I’m not addressing that question here anyway.  What I am sure of is this much: The burden of proof is not in the first place on him and people of like mind to show that the lockdown should be ended.  The burden is on defenders of the lockdown to show that it shouldn’t be.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Links for the lockdown

Thomas Osborne’s new book Aquinas’s Ethics, part of the Cambridge Elements series, is available online for free for a month.

How should a Thomist deal with a pandemic?  Robert Koons proposes some general principles, at Public Discourse.

At Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Thomas Nagel reviews Richard Swinburne’s Are We Bodies or Souls?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Kremer on classical theism

At YouTube, philosopher Elmar Kremer provides a useful multi-part introduction to the dispute between classical theism and theistic personalism, as part of the Wireless Philosophy video series.  Here are links to each of the installments:

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The lockdown’s loyal opposition

At First Things, Fr. Thomas Joseph White has defended the Covid-19 lockdown, whereas Rusty Reno has criticized it.  As I said last week, I agree with Fr. Thomas Joseph but I also believe that reason, charity, and the common good require serious engagement with skeptics like Rusty – and that this is more true, rather than less, the longer the lockdown goes on.  Meanwhile, at The Bulwark, conservative lockdown defender Jonathan V. Last tells us that he won’t link even to Fr. Thomas Joseph’s article, let alone Rusty’s.  The reason is that Fr. Thomas Joseph’s article “made matters worse, not better” by granting “legitimacy” to the idea that “there are really two sides to the issue, and that reasonable and intelligent people can disagree.”  He compares Rusty’s skepticism to that of flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Review of Scientism

My brief review of the anthology Scientism: Prospects and Problems, edited by Jeroen de Ridder, Rik Peels, and René van Woudenberg, appears in the December 2019 issue of Review of Metaphysics.  (The preview you see in that link leaves out only the last paragraph and a half or so of the review.)

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The lesson of the Resurrection

The lesson of the Resurrection is that the significance of our bodily life and its sufferings should be neither overstated nor understated.  It is to see the middle ground between materialism and Platonism.  In our decadent sensualist age, the anti-materialist message is perhaps the more obvious one.  The secularist can see no fate worse than unfulfilled earthly ambitions, unhappy marriages, unpaid bills, poor health, and the deathbed.  And no greater good than the avoidance of such things.  Woody Allen captures the mindset well: “Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.” 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Some thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis

I commend to you Fr. Thomas Joseph White’s First Things essay on the COVID-19 situation and the bishops’ response to it.  It exhibits his characteristic good sense and charity.  First Things editor Rusty Reno, with whom Fr. Thomas Joseph disagrees, exhibits his characteristic magnanimity and intellectual honesty in running it.  My sympathies are with Fr. Thomas Joseph’s views rather than Rusty’s, but I have been appalled by the nastiness of others who have responded to Rusty (who is a good man and a serious thinker and writer who deserves to be engaged with seriously).  Our situation calls for patience with one another and the calm exchange of opposing views, for the sake of the common good.  Too many have instead treated the debate over COVID-19 as an extension of hostilities that pre-existed the crisis.  This is gravely contrary to reason and charity.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Damnation denialism

Here’s a narrative we’re all by now familiar with.  Call it Narrative A:

Those who initially downplayed the dangers of COVID-19 were guilty of wishful thinking, as are those who think the crisis can be resolved either easily or soon.  This is what the experts tell us, and we should listen to them.  Even though those most at risk of death from the novel coronavirus are the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions, this is a large group.  Moreover, many people who won’t die from the virus will still suffer greatly, and even those with mild symptoms or none at all can still infect others.  Draconian measures are called for, even at the risk of massive unemployment, the undoing of people’s retirement plans, and the depletion of their savings.  Better safe than sorry.  To resist these hard truths is to be guilty of “coronavirus denialism.”