Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Geach on Hell
Saturday, December 25, 2021
The still, small voice of Christmas
(1 Kings 19:11-13)
Among the lessons of Christmas is the truth of the principle illustrated by this famous Old Testament passage. We often expect, or at least desire, special divine assistance to be instant and dramatic, like a superhero swooping to the rescue in a Marvel movie. And we lose hope when that doesn’t happen. But God only rarely works that way, and such dramatics have to be rare lest grace smother nature. Special divine assistance is in the ordinary course of things subtle and gradual – a still, small voice rather than a whirlwind, earthquake, or fire – but nevertheless unmistakable when the big picture is kept in view.
Sunday, December 19, 2021
The Catholic middle ground on Covid-19 vaccination
Monday, December 13, 2021
Western cultural suicide as apostasy (Updated)
Ours is a civilization in decline, and at a rapidly accelerating pace. That isn’t new in human history. But the precise manner in which it is disintegrating seems to be unprecedented, which is the reason for the title of Anton’s essay. What has effectively become the ideology of the ruling classes, which goes by many names – political correctness, “wokeness,” “critical social justice,” the “successor Ideology,” the baizuo mentality, and so on – manifests a perverse self-destructiveness and nihilism that, as Anton argues, appears sui generis.
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Thursday, December 2, 2021
Geach on original sin
Recently we dipped into Peter Geach’s book Providence and Evil. Let’s do so again, looking this time at what he has to say about the doctrine of original sin. Geach says that the doctrine holds that human beings have “inherited… [a] flawed nature,” and indeed that:
The traditional doctrine is that since the sin of our first parents, men have been conceived and born different in nature from what they would have been had our first parents stood firm under trial. As C. S. Lewis puts it, a new species, not made by God, sinned itself into existence. (pp. 89-90)
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
MacIntyre on human dignity
Sunday, November 21, 2021
The Feast of Christ the King
Thursday, November 18, 2021
Geach’s argument against modernism
Saturday, November 13, 2021
Aquinas on the relative importance of pastors and theologians
In a passage of his… [Aquinas] touches upon the question, whether the pastors of souls or the professors of theology have a more important position in the life of the Church, and he decides in favor of the latter. He gives the following reason for his view: In the construction of a building the architect, who conceives the plan and directs the construction, stands above the workmen who actually put up the building. In the construction of the divine edifice of the Church and the care of souls, the position of architect is held by the bishops, but also by the theology professors, who study and teach the manner in which the care of souls is to be conducted. (p. 5)
Thursday, November 4, 2021
The politics of chastity
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
Neo-Aristotelian Metaphysics and the Theology of Nature
The “supernatural,” as that term is traditionally used in theology, is that which is beyond the power of the natural order to produce on its own. Hence it can be produced only by what has causal power superior to that of anything in the natural order, namely the divine cause of the natural order. Insofar as the natural order depends on this supernatural cause, the supernatural is metaphysically prior to the natural. However, the natural is epistemologically prior to the supernatural, insofar as we cannot form a conception of the supernatural except by contrast with the natural, and cannot know whether there is such a thing as the supernatural unless we can reason to its existence from the existence of the natural order. A proper understanding of the supernatural thus presupposes a proper understanding of the natural order and of the causal relation between that order and its cause. This chapter offers an account of these matters and of their implications for theological issues concerning causal arguments for God’s existence, divine conservation and concurrence, miracles, nature and grace, faith and reason, and the notion of a theological mystery (viz. what is beyond the power of the intellect to discover on its own).
Friday, October 29, 2021
Adventures in the Old Atheism, Part VI: Schopenhauer
Our series has examined how atheists of earlier generations often exhibited a higher degree of moral and/or metaphysical gravitas than the sophomoric New Atheists of more recent vintage. As we’ve seen, this is true of Nietzsche, Sartre, Freud, Marx, and even Woody Allen. There is arguably even more in the way of metaphysical and moral gravitas to be found in our next subject, Arthur Schopenhauer. Plus, I think it has to be said, the best hair. So let’s have a look, if you’re willing.
Sunday, October 24, 2021
Untangling the web
In First Things, William Lane Craig in quest of the historical Adam. Christianity Today interviews Craig about his new book on the subject.
At Rolling Stone, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen on the release of two live albums and the prospect of a new album. Fagen is interviewed at Variety and the Tablet. The Ringer on the Dan’s new following among millennials. Elliot Scheiner on engineering Gaucho.
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Truth as a transcendental
Last June, I presented a talk on the topic “Truth as a Transcendental” at the Aquinas Philosophy Workshop on the theme Aquinas on Knowledge, Truth, and Wisdom in Greenville, South Carolina. You can now listen to the talk at the Thomistic Institute’s Soundcloud page. (What you see above is the chart on the transcendentals referred to in the talk. Click on the image to enlarge. You'll also find a handout for the talk, which includes the chart, at the link to the Soundcloud audio of the talk.)
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
From Socrates to Stock
Monday, October 11, 2021
Covid-19 vaccination should not be mandatory
Thomistic natural law theory and Catholic moral theology are not libertarian, but neither are they statist. They acknowledge that we can have enforceable obligations to which we do not consent, but also insist that there are limits to what government can require of us, and qualifications even where it can require something of us. In the case of vaccine mandates (whether we are talking about Covid-19 vaccines, polio vaccines, or whatever), they neither imply a blanket condemnation of such mandates nor a blanket approval of them. There is nuance here that too many hotheads on both sides of the Catholic debate on this issue ignore.
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Covid-19 vaccines and Jeffrey Dahmer’s nail clippings
Friday, October 8, 2021
Covid-19 vaccination is not the hill to die on
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
It’s the next thrilling open thread!
Sunday, September 26, 2021
The “first world problem” of evil
Thursday, September 16, 2021
Lao Tzu’s negative theology
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Ioannidis on the politicization of science
Like other academics, I first became aware of John Ioannidis through his influential 2005 paper “Why Most Published Research Findings are False.” That essay was widely praised as a salutary reminder from one scientist to his fellows of the need for their field to be self-critical. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Ioannidis would become far more widely known, this time for expressing skepticism about some of the scientific claims being made about the virus and the measures taken to deal with it. His warnings were in the same spirit as that of his earlier work, and presented in the same measured and reasonable manner – but this time they were not so warmly received. In a new essay at The Tablet, Ioannidis reflects on the damage that has been done to the norms of scientific research as politics has corrupted it during the pandemic.
Sunday, September 5, 2021
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Aquinas on humor and social life
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
Confucius on our times
The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Oppy and Feser after-party
After the first exchange Graham Oppy and I had on Cameron Bertuzzi’s show Capturing Christianity two years ago, Cameron hosted an after-show Q & A for his patrons. He has now made it available to the general public on YouTube. It runs for over half an hour and ranges over a wide variety of topics – the laws of logic, fundamental particles, divine simplicity and modal collapse, divine freedom, the “what caused God?” objection, dualism versus materialism, the Principle of Sufficient Reason, Thomism versus theistic personalism, potentiality versus actuality, and even capital punishment. Check it out.
Friday, August 13, 2021
Sterba on the problem of evil
Saturday, August 7, 2021
Adventures in the Old Atheism, Part V: Woody Allen
So far in this series we’ve considered Nietzsche, Sartre, Freud, and Marx. None of them is exactly a laugh riot. So let’s now take a look at the lighter side of atheistic disenchantment and nihilism, in the work of that most philosophical of American comic filmmakers, Woody Allen. We’ve noted how one of the features that distinguishes the New Atheism from the Old is its shallow optimism. New Atheists typically refuse to see any good in religion at all, and thus can foresee no loss whatsoever in the prospect of its disappearance. Allen is as free of that sophomoric attitude as any Old Atheist, which gives him at least some of the relative sobriety of the members of that club.
Friday, August 6, 2021
Oppy on Thomistic cosmological arguments
Friday, July 30, 2021
Anaximander and natural theology
Friday, July 23, 2021
Pope Francis’s scarlet letter
Sunday, July 18, 2021
Pope Victor redux?
Saturday, July 17, 2021
Aquinas on bad prelates
Monday, July 12, 2021
The metaphysical presuppositions of formal logic
Most philosophers have at least a vague awareness of this. For instance, they know from standard textbooks that traditional and modern logic differ in their interpretation of categorical propositions, the repercussions this has for their understanding of the square of opposition, and so forth. They know that there has been much debate in contemporary philosophy over the status of modal logic, not to mention even more exotic systems like quantum logic. They may be at least dimly aware that systems of logic were developed in the history of Indian philosophy that differ from those familiar to Western thinkers. And so on.
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
Schmid on existential inertia
Friday, July 2, 2021
Schmid on the Aristotelian proof
Saturday, June 26, 2021
A whole lotta links
Anna Krylov warns of the growing politicization of science, in the Journal of Physical Chemistry. Nautilus on the sometimes contradictory scientific literature.
At Rolling Stone, hear David Crosby sing Donald Fagen’s new song “Rodriguez for a Night.”
The Spectator on a new biography of Kurt Gödel.
At the Claremont Review of Books, Joseph M. Bessette on Barack Obama’s latest memoir.
Monday, June 21, 2021
Curiosity damned the cat
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Indeterminacy and the comics
For a larger sample of Williamson’s work , you might check out his adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” for EC’s Weird Science-Fantasy; the amusing “The Success Story” from Warren’s Creepy magazine; his adaptation of the movie Blade Runner for Marvel Comics; and “The Few and the Far” from Pacific Comics’ Alien Worlds. A new book, Al Williamson: Strange World Adventures, offers a pleasing overview of the cartoonist’s career, with a great many pages of original art reproduced on large pages in black and white so that the details of Williamson’s pen and ink work are all visible.
Five Proofs in Spanish
For anyone interested in other translations of my books: The Last Superstition has been translated into Portuguese, French, and German. Philosophy of Mind is available in German. A book of some of my essays is available in Romanian.
Saturday, June 12, 2021
An exegetical principle from Fortescue
Before we quote our texts, there is yet a remark to be made. Nearly all these quotations are quite well known already. This does not affect their value. If a text proves a thesis, it does not matter at all whether it is now quoted for the first or the hundredth time… Naturally, people who deny [what we believe]… also have something to say about them. In each case they make what attempt they can to show that the writer does not really admit what we claim, in spite of his words… The case is always the same. We quote words, of which the plain meaning seems to be that their writer believed what we believe, in some point. The opponent then tries to strip his words of this meaning… The answer is that, in all cases, we must suppose that a sane man, who uses definite expressions, means what he says, unless the contrary can be proved. To polish off a statement with which you do not agree by saying that it is not meant, and leave the matter at that, is a silly proceeding.
Friday, June 4, 2021
Aquinas and Hayek on abstraction
Thursday, June 3, 2021
Dave’s armstronging again
armstrong, verb. Boldly but casually to insinuate a falsehood in the hope that others will go along with it. “Dave tried to armstrong me into a debate. Can you believe that guy?”
Well, Dave “Stretch” Armstrong is at it again. Apropos of nothing, he posted an article at his blog the other day suggesting that I have claimed that “Pope Francis favors divorce.” That’s a pretty serious charge, but of course I have said no such thing. Like other people, I have said that Amoris Laetitia is problematic insofar as its ambiguities seem to permit divorced Catholics living in adulterous relationships to take Holy Communion under certain circumstances, which would conflict with traditional Catholic teaching. And like others (including Armstrong himself!), I have criticized the pope for not answering the dubia, and thereby making it clear that that is not what Amoris is meant to teach. But that is a far cry from accusing the pope of actually favoring divorce.
Saturday, May 29, 2021
A reply to Dreher
Friday, May 28, 2021
Do not abandon your Mother
Saturday, May 22, 2021
The trouble with capitalism
. (Matthew 19:24)
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36)
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)
When people use or hear the word “capitalism,” some of the things they might bring to mind are:
1. The institution of private property, including private ownership of the basic means of production
2. Market competition
3. The existence of corporations as legal persons
4. Inequalities in wealth and income
5. An economic order primarily oriented to the private sector, with government acting at the margins and only where necessary
Friday, May 14, 2021
Intellectuals in hell
It is by virtue of our rational or intellectual powers that we are made in God’s image and have a dignity nothing else in the material world possesses. As Aquinas writes:
Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. vi, 12): “Man's excellence consists in the fact that God made him to His own image by giving him an intellectual soul, which raises him above the beasts of the field.” Therefore things without intellect are not made to God's image… It is clear, therefore, that intellectual creatures alone, properly speaking, are made to God's image. (Summa Theologiae I.93.2)
And again, a couple of articles later: “Man is said to be the image of God by reason of his intellectual nature” (Summa Theologiae I.93.4).