Saturday, December 25, 2021
(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
Monday, December 13, 2021
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
Recently we dipped into Peter Geach’s book . 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
Sunday, November 21, 2021
Thursday, November 18, 2021
Saturday, November 13, 2021
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
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
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
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 , , , , and even . 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
In First Things, William Lane Craig Christianity Today about ..
, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen on the release of two live albums and the prospect of a new album. Fagen is interviewed at and . The Ringer on . Elliot Scheiner on .
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
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
Monday, October 11, 2021
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
Friday, October 8, 2021
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
Sunday, September 26, 2021
Thursday, September 16, 2021
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Like other academics, I first became aware of John Ioannidis through his influential 2005 paper 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 . In , 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
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
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
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
Saturday, August 7, 2021
So far in this series we’ve considered , , , and . 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
Friday, July 30, 2021
Friday, July 23, 2021
Sunday, July 18, 2021
The Quartodeciman controversy of the second century A.D. had to do with the date on which the resurrection of Christ ought to be observed. Churches in Asia Minor preserved the custom of tying this observance to the date of the Passover, whatever day of the week that happened to fall on. The Roman practice was instead to observe it on a Sunday, since that was the day Christ was resurrected. The eastern practice was defended by St. Polycarp, who appealed to the authority of none other than his teacher St. John the Apostle. Pope St. Anicetus tried unsuccessfully to convince Polycarp to adopt the Roman practice, and they agreed to disagree.
Saturday, July 17, 2021
Monday, July 12, 2021
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
Friday, July 2, 2021
Saturday, June 26, 2021
Anna Krylov Nautilus on the sometimes contradictory scientific literature. , in the Journal of Physical Chemistry.
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
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
For a larger sample of Williamson’s work , you might check out his A new book, , 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. for EC’s Weird Science-Fantasy; the amusing from Warren’s Creepy magazine; his for Marvel Comics; and from Pacific Comics’ Alien Worlds.
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
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
Thursday, June 3, 2021
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
Friday, May 28, 2021
Saturday, May 22, 2021
. (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
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 )
And again, a couple of articles later: “Man is said to be the image of God by reason of his intellectual nature” (Summa Theologiae ).
Monday, May 10, 2021
Monday, May 3, 2021
Thomas Harper is one of the great forgotten Neo-Scholastic writers of the nineteenth century. I discussed his wonderful little book The Immaculate Conception in a blog post . He is especially notable for his unusually rigorous and thorough treatment of abstract topics in metaphysics, in works such as the massive three-volume The Metaphysics of the School. Harper will sometimes interrupt a sustained exercise in abstract reasoning with a non-technical aside, as he does in the course of discussing the metaphysics of truth in Volume I. He there offers (at pp. 461-466) a commentary on Francis Bacon’s “idols of the mind” which is even more relevant now than it was in Harper’s day.