Saturday, August 29, 2020

Open thread (and a comment on trolling)

We’re long overdue for another open thread.  Now is the time for you to post that otherwise off-topic comment I’ve had to delete.  From Being Itself to mental health, from Mickey Spillane to John Coltrane, from Dada to Prada, in this post everything is on-topic.  Naturally, the normal rules of decency and civility still apply.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Separating scientism and state

Scientism transforms science into an intolerant and all-encompassing ideology.  Bad as it is when it issues in crackpot philosophy, it can be even worse when used to rationalize destructive public policy – as with the increasingly idiotic and oppressive lockdowns that have been imposed across much of the world.  Now perhaps more than ever we need the corrective provided by the late, great philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994), who argued trenchantly for a separation of scientism and state.  I offer a primer in a new article at The American Mind.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The particle collection that fancied itself a physicist

I haven’t done a “Physicists say the darndest things” post in a while.  People usually ask me to write one up every time a Lawrence Krauss, Sean Carroll, or Stephen Hawking (well, lately not Hawking) publishes a new “gee whiz” pop philosophy book masquerading as a pop science book.  I find the genre extremely boring.  It’s always the same dreary, sophomoric PBS-level stuff: We’re all just heaps of particles, but golly this really increases rather than decreases the wonder of it all, and here’s some half-baked amateur metaphysics and life lessons that even hardcore materialist philosophers would regard as fallacious and banal.  The only variable is whether the crap philosophy in these $30 time wasters is coupled with clueless arrogance (cough, Krauss) or at least presented with some humility. 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Russell’s No Man’s Land

In his History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell famously characterized philosophy as follows:

Philosophy, as I shall understand the word, is something intermediate between theology and science.  Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation.  All definite knowledge – so I should contend – belongs to science; all dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology.  But between theology and science there is a No Man’s Land, exposed to attack from both sides; and this No Man’s Land is philosophy.  Almost all the questions of most interest to speculative minds are such as science cannot answer, and the confident answers of theologians no longer seem so convincing as they did in former centuries. (p. xiii)

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The links you’ve been longing for

At Medium, David Oderberg on the prophets Orwell, Huxley, and Bradbury.

3:16 interviews Thomist philosopher Gaven Kerr.

At Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Kerr reviews Timothy Pawl’s book In Defense of Extended Conciliar Christology.

Honest criticism or cancel culture?  At Persuasion, Jonathan Rauch on six signs that you’re dealing with the latter.  At The New York Times, Ross Douthat offers ten theses about cancel culture.

If aliens really exist, where the hell are they?  Michael Flynn surveys 34 possible answers.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Popes, creeds, councils, and catechisms contra universalism

One more post on the topic of universalism before we give it a rest for a while.  Whatever other Christians might think, for the Catholic Church the matter is settled.  That it is possible that some will be damned forever is the de fide teaching of the Church, so that the thesis that it is necessary that all will eventually be saved is heretical.  This is why even Hans Urs von Balthasar and Catholics of like mind argue only that we may hope that all will be saved, not that we can know that they will be, much less that it is necessary that they will be.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

A statement from David Bentley Hart

NOTE: David Bentley Hart and I have had some very heated exchanges over the years, but I have always found him to be at bottom a decent fellow.  That remains true.  During our recent dispute over his book on universalism, the one thing I took great exception to was the accusation of dishonesty on my part, and I let David know this privately.  He sent me the following statement to post here, for which I thank him.  I would also like to reaffirm my longstanding admiration for much of his work, such as his books Atheist Delusions and The Experience of God.