Sunday, April 18, 2021

Voila! An open thread! (Updated)

UPDATE 4/20: Lately the comments sections have been filling up quickly.  Some readers seem unaware that after the count reaches 200 comments, you have to click the "Load more..." prompt that appears in small print at the bottom of the combox in order to view newer comments.  That's part of Blogger's algorithm and out of my control, sorry.  So, if you're worried that your comment is not showing up, never fear.  It's there, but you have to click the prompt to see it.

How does an annoying off-topic comment suitable only for deletion get transformed into a stimulating on-topic conversation starter?  Through the magic of the open thread post.  Whatever is on your mind, from The Prestige to Under Siege, from the Ponzo illusion to jazz-rock fusion, from Paul Bernays to Ricky Gervais, post away and stand back in wonder as your comment not only doesn’t disappear, but may even get a response!

Though probably not from me (too busy, sorry) and definitely not if you’re a troll.  On that latter, perennial topic: Our latest pest is some weirdo who keeps posting odd comments under different names, carrying on conversations with himself while pretending it is other commenters who are guilty of this childish behavior.  As always, please ignore such people.  And as always, please resist any urge to respond to gratuitous abuse or other obnoxiousness in a way that is likely to spiral into an endless and unedifying exchange of insults.  As time and attention permits, I will delete this garbage.  Please remember that you are a guest here.  Act accordingly.

Also, too many people keep posting anonymously, making exchanges confusing.  If you don’t want to post under your own name or through a Google account, fine, but at least choose some one consistent pseudonym to post under so that people don’t have to keep trying to figure out which anonymous commenter said what. 

For anyone who is interested, earlier open threads are archived here.


  1. How long do we think takes to cone up with the traditional rhyming in the first paragraph of an open thread? 20 seconds to rattle then off or does he sit there for 10 minutes googing words that rhyme with Gervais?

    1. I was thinking the same thing! And will he ever run out of rhymes?

  2. So I'm writing on my phone quickly at 11pm. I hope most will be able to decipher the above. Useful hint; it's about how long Ed takes to think of rhymes

  3. Does Thomism have a libertarian view of free will (i.e., a real ability to have done otherwise) and if so how does it avoid violating conservation of energy (since the ability to have done otherwise means you must have been able to instantiate a different chain of physical events--neurons firing, muscles contracting, etc.--than the one that actually occurred)? One perk of Thomist/Aristotelian dualism is that it avoids Cartesian problems with an immaterial soul "pushing atoms around" but this would seem to rule out libertarian free will as a consequence (no way of intervening in the chain of physical causation involved in neural activity and behavior, thus no way to instantiate an alternative chain of physical events, thus no way to have done otherwise, thus no libertarian free will).

    1. What makes the will free under Thomism is the fact that it doesn't operate according to physical laws. Rather, it operates according to the laws of logic. Unlike animal instinct, which moves according to the needs of body, the will moves according to the concepts in the intellect. The will's telos is what the intellect judges to be the best. Since multiple things can be good at once, this makes the choice "free" (as it's not according to some automatic process, but according to intellectual judgment). Does this sound like a libertarian view of free will?

      I find your assertion that free will violates conservation of energy bizarre. It's not as though there's the free will "intervenes" in the physical causation involved in neural activity and behavior. Rather, in humans, animal instinct and free will act in tandem as parts of the human soul, and the soul is the formal cause of the body's movements. The physical body, including the neurons are the material cause.

    2. "Does this sound like a libertarian view of free will?"

      You tell me, I'm not the Thomism expert. Is there a real "ability to have done otherwise" in the Thomist conception of the will? If no (and perhaps this is the case), then there's no problem of the sort I've described. If yes, it demands an explanation of how two alternative chains of physical events (neurons firing, muscles contracting, etc.) could have possibly transpired, and as far as I can see invoking hylemorphism doesn't by itself dissolve this problem.

    3. bulldog,

      I'm not really sure what you are arguing for here. You modeled human action on free will "intervening" with an otherwise-unbroken chain of deterministic physical events. Hylemorphism doesn't allow for that. So what's the issue here?

    4. Mr Geocom

      You assert that what makes the will free under Thomism is that it operates under the rule of logic not physical law. So to return to bulldog's explicit question which you ignore, do we have a real ability to act otherwise from what we actually do? Our abilities in logic vary greatly, and our background assumptions likewise, so even if you are correct , does that not introduce determinism through the back door, even if not physical? I presume that you are not suggesting that we have volitional control over our intelligence, reasoning ability, acquired framework within which the reasoning takes place and affective factors which bias us without us even knowing about it.

      Is this yet another example of Thomists having a completely different meaning for a word to the ordinary one, so we are supposedly free without actually being so?

    5. "I'm not really sure what you are arguing for here. You modeled human action on free will "intervening" with an otherwise-unbroken chain of deterministic physical events. Hylemorphism doesn't allow for that. So what's the issue here?"

      I agree there's no issue if there's no real ability to have done otherwise (= no libertarian free will), what I'm asking is whether Thomism does or does not affirm a real ability to have done otherwise. It seems like an important question since (arguably) a real ability to have done otherwise seems important for topics such as moral culpability. Thomists do seem to believe in genuine moral culpability, which is why as an outsider I am curious whether they think an evildoer had any real ability to do otherwise. If not, it seemingly complicates certain moral questions (not to dive deep into them, but for example, the morality of condemning someone to hell even though they couldn't have possibly failed to sin); if so, we return to the question I started with, of how the will can implement two genuinely different physical/causal chains of events at time t.

    6. bulldog,

      Thomism does not focus on the will as the ability to choose between contraries, as we regard it as a misleading description. We see it as primarily a rational appetite for the good qua good. This view is much richer because it takes into account larger projects we as humans engage in that are made up of a bunch of individual choices as well as choices made out of habit.

      Your characterization of libertarian free will as being able to implement two genuinely different physical/causal chains of events at time t and how this violates conservation of energy doesn't seem to hold in the Thomistic worldview for two reasons. First, it seems to imply a fatalistic view of the physical world - that everything that happens in the physical world happens out of necessity. Is it true that, in a world without humans, everything that happens would happen necessarily? This doesn't seem obvious to me. Second, as I've stated before, the picture you present of free will seems to act as though there is this chain of physical causation on the one hand and free will on the other. In fact, the free will (along with the other parts of the human soul, such as instinct) act as formal causes and the physical stuff you point to act as material causes. Free will is part of the system of human action and not something from the "outside" that "intervenes."

    7. Anonymous,

      We believe that will is a rational desire for the good. It necessarily chooses what the intellect judges to be good and goes from there. However, at any given point in time, the intellect can behold multiple good things, and the will can be attracted to any given one of them. Because the will is not necessarily drawn to any one particular good thing, we can say that it is free to that extent. Now, to me, this seems to satisfy the definition of "libertarian free will."

    8. @bulldog,

      It depends on how you understand libertarian freedom. Banezian Thomism, arguably the most popular version of Thomism from the 16th-20th century is not libertarian.

      Whether Thomism as such leaves room for libertarianism is a complex question. Philosopher W Matthews Grant argues that our choices can be free, in a libertarian sense, yet nevertheless caused by God. His arguments are similar to those of the late Hugh McCann. Their approach is a serious challenge to those who think libertarianism is incompatible with divine universal causality.

    9. Tom,

      It's hard to see how libertarianism is incompatible with divine universal causality if you take a concurrentist view of divine causality (as opposed to an occasionalist one).

    10. @Tom,

      Thomism doesn't hold to a volunteerism view of Free Will that puts the Will before the Intellect. So The Who compatibalist vs incompatibalist vs libertarian thingy is non-aplicable.

      Banezian Thomas is not Calvinism with Rosary Beads. That view believes we have wills that are truly free it is just God is at the first cause of their being free.

    11. Son of Ya'Kov,

      I think the correct view for the Thomistic view of free will is called "Teleological Libertarianism."

    12. @Mister Geocon,

      It depends on exactly what you think is involved in divine causality, even on a concurrentist view. If you accept the theory of physical premotion, it is hard to see how you are not a compatibilist. Certain concurrentists accept the physical premotion account of divine causality.

    13. @Son,

      First of all, I don't want to go the rabbit hole of Banez vs Calvin. So I'll leave that debate for another time.

      As to the actual comment you make, I disagree that intellectualism escapes the compatibilist vs incompatibilist debate. Lets stipulate that the will seeks that which the intellect presents to it as good. This is the basic thesis of intellectualism. That thesis does not tell us whether or not freedom is compatible with the will being necessitated by factors prior to it.

    14. Tom,

      My point is that if you think that the free-willed agent is a real cause along with divine causality, it's difficult to see how divine universal causality rules out libertarian free will.

    15. Aquinas view of the question is important:

      And yea, the modern free will debate seems to presuposes a modern metaphysics.

  4. Off the wall (been arguing with a friend), but what's the greatest TV drama?

    My vote goes to The Sopranos.

    1. In the past 20 years, Breaking Bad. Some moral realism that is extremely rare these days (Jesse’s dog speech), and it has penetrating grasp of human psychology.

  5. Would anyone be able to direct me to any of Dr. Feser's writings where he addresses why concepts and propositions, being universals, aren't necessarily shared universally by languages? I'm guessing it's because they haven't experientially/culturally been 'stumbled' upon by certain language groups. I'm interested from a translational point of view...

    1. I'm not quite sure what you mean, but I'd suggest checking out Gyula Klima's work, for example his chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Aquinas. Briefly and somewhat simplistically, we have a universal concept of 'platypus' existing in our minds, which we derive by abstracting from particular individuals of the platypus species. However, if we have never met a member of the platypus species, we cannot form the concept - scholastics hold that 'nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the sense', so we must first experience the particulars before we form their universal concept. To explain why we mark the same concepts with different words (i. e. different 'signs') I'll just quote Klima:

      "In accordance with the common logical doctrine of the time, Aquinas holds that what establishes signification is an act of imposition, a sort of “name-giving.” A human language primarily consists of utterances, that is, articulate sounds (and secondarily of written marks or any other forms of conventional symbols that can “stand in” for spoken words or expressions, say, hand gestures, smoke signals, Morse code, etc.), which in themselves may or may not be meaningful (or significative, to use an Anglicized version of the Latin technical term). For instance, if I utter the articulate sound “biltrix,” an ordinary speaker of English or Latin literally has no idea what I mean. But, of course, we, the users of these languages, can make this utterance meaningful, if we agree what we want to use it for, somehow making clear what we are supposed to have in mind when we are using it in our conversation. This can be done in a number of different ways, for example, by ceremonially naming something or someone by it, as in a baptism, or by providing its definition, or by simply starting to use it in contexts when what we mean is made clear in the situation itself (say, from behavioral clues, the circumstances, etc.; just think of how the utterance “to google” only relatively recently became meaningful in English, for example). What any of these procedures establishes is a connection between this utterance and a cognitive act whereby we conceive of the same thing or things in the same way. Once this connection is established, medieval logicians would say that the utterance is imposed to signify precisely the thing or things we conceive of, and precisely in the ways we conceive of it or them. Thus, the utterance becomes a significative utterance, that is to say, a word of our language. For medieval logicians, a mere articulate sound, such as “biltrix,” is not a word, precisely because it has no connection with a cognitive act, it “brings nothing to mind,” or in other words, it constitutes no understanding in the mind of someone who hears it. The cognitive act whereby we conceive of the thing or things signified by the word is called a concept. So, an act of imposition is the act establishing the connection between an utterance and a concept, thereby rendering the utterance significative of the thing or things conceived by means of the concept precisely in the way conceived by means of the concept."

      However, even if the concept of the platypus does not exist in our minds as ens rationis, the universal still really exists in particular individuals (in re) and as divine idea.

    2. Thanks, Anonymous. If I can focus on your ‘platypus’ example, that is ‘in the senses before it is in the intellect’ (pretty easy down here in Australia), and on the ‘google’ example in your Klima citation, these concepts seem to be different from the names we give numbers and logical relations, which ¬¬– if I’m understanding Feser properly here – ‘describe some reality that entirely preexisted [the] expressions’ having “caught on” within the community of language users’. In particular, the ‘google’ example seems to exemplify cases where ‘the introduction and use of linguistic expressions sometimes plays a role in actively creating or constituting the phenomena to which the expressions refer’ (Ibid). Whereas we could not create and constitute ¬– say – a whole number between 1 and 2, no matter how hard we tried to introduce and use a linguistic expression to designate it. It’s this latter type of pre-existing concept that I was referring to as needing to be ‘stumbled upon’ by language communities.
      ~ Sergio (hoping I’m not embarrassing myself in a philosophy blog)

    3. *

  6. Working on ways to communicate arguments quickly in a world of confused people:

    There is no human organism that produces a reproductive cell that is neither a sperm nor an ovum. Therefore, “non-binary” is not a thing.

    If gender is disconnected from biology, then volunteering at the Human Society is a gender and there is no need to give testosterone to confused teenaged girls.

    1. I think this is good idea; I refer to these as "philosophical elevator pitches." If you can communicate your idea in 30 seconds (while stuck in an elevator with someone), then you understand it well.

      I think you points are well taken; my basic refutation of the denial of binary sex is similar: "If there is no such thing as binary sex, then where did all the people come from?"

      And to your second point:
      "If men and women are not naturally different, then why do "trans-men" take testosterone?"

      Being able to point to even one extremely obvious fact like that gives people something to mentally grab onto if they are confused, like a mental life-preserver.

    2. JMM,

      Right on. The only way to argue the point would be to produce a human organism that produces a reproductive cell that is neither a sperm nor an ovum, which cannot be done. But that won't stop them from shouting more words.

    3. Yes. In the traditional (natural) view, there are two sexes; one produces eggs, the other sperm. There are then three genders (which is primarily linguistic: masculine, feminine, neuter words). Then there are many, many sexual preferences.

      In the modern view, sexual preferences get upgraded to actual "genders," and the egg/sperm distinction among sexes just gets ignored.

    4. Craig Payne,

      It may be ascetically pleasing to apply euphemisms like "modern view" and "traditional view", but this does nothing to show the coherence of the propositions at stake.

  7. Rod Dreher’s Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents is a must read for those who see the treat of authoritarian/totalitarianism for what it is. An excellent manual for how to fight off the monothinker zombies.

  8. Calling out that Unknown person that keeps on bugging me over not supporting the secular liberal regime. Why should I, as a orthodox Catholic, actively support the American secular liberal system and the spread of secular liberalism the world over? Or is that a strawman of your position on what orthodox Catholic should do? Let me know.

    1. I suspect Unknown is a poster called WCB over at Strange Notions? He is a Gnu Atheist who for some mad reason thinks we Catholics are Fundamentalist Baptists who confess a Theistic Personalist or Neo Theistic "god".

      As to the compatibility of American secular liberalism with Catholicism...well maybe...maybe not. That is above my pay grade. BTW I am an orthodox Catholic. I learn toward Traditional Thomist but I don't much care for liturgical Traditionalism. But if it works for others as long as they recognize Francis is the Pope then I have no beef with 'em.


    2. Hello,

      Well, I don't find it obvious the Catholicism is compatible with American secular liberalism. For example, under American secular liberalism, blasphemy is protected free speech (Think of death metal bands, movies, or "art."). If this is the case then the state ought to protect it. However, under Catholicism, blaspheming is mortal sin, so it ought not to be done. It seems the state is protecting an evil.

    3. Mr Geocon

      You misrepresent me as usual.

      It would be odd indeed if you supported liberal democracy per se, but I 'bug' you for your political and ethical blindness in not being able to
      express a clear preferance for it over fascism, state communism and Islaamic authoritarianism . So here we go again - do you not see the moral superiority of the liberal democratic system over what pertained in Hitlers's Germany, Stalin's Russia and Adghanistan under the Taliban? And please do not say something daft like 'that has not been demonstrated'. You are such an obsessive about your beloved RC integralism that your political and moral judgement had rotted away

      I also like to point out what RC integralism would mean in practice, with control of religion and morality in the hands of unelected priests who could not be summarily dispensed with. Not something that many people - even the great majority of Catholics - would desire i'm sure.

    4. Yeah this "Unknown" guy seems to me to be pretty stupid and vitriolic (and poorly written). I have not seen him (or her?) write anything of value beyond just ranting against some people.
      I guess either Feser bans them or we can just ignore meaningless contributions.


      That said I agree with most that Catholicism is compatible with "secular liberalism" - to a point. Secular liberalism taken to an extreme also has its pitfalls and problems and I think even most "liberals" might agree with that.

      In fact liberals today seem to reject liberalism through "cancel culture"

    5. FM

      You are a bit of a moron yourself FM. Mr Geocon had pitched his post DIRECTLY to me , and I think that my answer is perfectly fair, but you would like your hive to just ignore it, or for Feser to ban me. Oh, and I apologise if my posts do not rise to your dizzy literary and expositional heights ( "poorly written' , to go with 'stupid' and 'vitriolic' ). What a jerk.

      Later in the thread ( commenting on my reply to Son of Ya'kov) you are off again, squeeling about trolls and how stupid they are, while studiously avoiding the question at hand ( of course ). Ban , ignore, eradicate! How pathetic

    6. Unknown,

      If secular liberalism is so obviously superior to the alternatives you've laid out, then you ought to be able to demonstrate its superiority over all the other systems you presented. That you seem unable to do so. Why?

      The main problem with liberalism is that it pretends to be better than these systems when it in fact commits the same evils using so-called "private" actors, as I alluded to in my comments below on freedom of speech. Here is my preference: of the systems you presented, it is my view that liberalism is the worst for exactly the reasons I presented. The evils of the other systems is more obvious, but liberalism is more seductive, and therefore, its evils are more dangerous.

    7. MR GEOCON

      I have replied to this under MattSimons question about free speech below - April 19, 12.41PM

  9. Does "freedom of speech" exist? That is, the right to say anything, except the usual "fire in a crowded room" caveats. It would seem that a thomist would rule it out on the same ground as they rule out lying - i.e. one may only speak that which accords with the truth, which would rule out saying absilutely anything.

    1. No, freedom of speech cannot exist because the concept of free speech presupposes a split between the state and a civil society that exists autonomous of the state. But if there is a sovereign, then in all cases, any speech that exists is all granted legitimacy by the sovereign, either directly or indirectly, through action or non-action. And there is always a sovereign.

      So, forget anything about "not lying" - neither freedom of press nor freedom of religion nor freedom of speech nor economic freedom can exist. All are delusions. Such is the way of the world.

    2. MattSimmons

      You will note that Geocon has ignored your question as is his habit.

      You are quite correct, Thomists would rule out free speech, except of the truth, which is of course RC and Thomist dogma. Better beware if old Geocon gets his way and we ever live under the boot of his priestly morality police in an RC integralist order!

    3. MattSimmons

      Note too the pedantic, unnuanced nature of his response. Free speech does not exist because it presupposes a division between the state and a civil society that exists autonomously of it, which we do not and cannot have. Well, be that as it may, in the real world we see varying degrees of freedom of thought, speech and expression, from the most controlling and repressive of dictatorships to our most liberal of democracies. Since there is in fact no freedom of speech, Geocon mindlessly lumps them all together.

      Unnuanced, dogmatic, black and white thinking is Mr Geocon's trademark. He would have that foistered upon you too in his ideal RC integralist world.

    4. Well define free speech. Does free speech cover spreading intentional misinformation and consciously lying?

      You say
      " It would seem that a thomist would rule it out on the same ground as they rule out lying - i.e. one may only speak that which accords with the truth, which would rule out saying absilutely anything."

      I would say that Thomism allows free speech in so far as people are speaking honestly, i.e. not purposefully deceiving others.

      Freedom of speech essentially exists to protect people's beliefs, not to protect deceit and lying.

    5. Leo XIII has some interesting thoughts on free speech in a little-known encyclical, pre-Rerum Novarum, called "Libertas." Check it out.

    6. Unknown,

      Secular liberalism, by design, must be ultra-controlling of its citizens. The state encompasses the life of everyone. Nobody who lives inside of it is allowed to imagine a life outside of it. The stifling of thought is more complete under liberalism despite its formality of having "free speech" (or rather, because of it, since the formality makes it easier to pretend that there's no censorship going on). The only difference is the method of controlling people's speech: liberal institutions tend to promote speech they like through the roof while disregarding what they don't like as "hateful" and making them social pariahs while Catholicism tends to have a set of do-nots, and they punish heretics with coercion. But, at the end of the day, there's no difference between carrot and stick.

      Also, in the real world, the degrees of freedom is dependent entirely on the needs of the sovereign. If the sovereign wants X, Y, and Z actions from the citizens, he allows them, and if he disallows A, B, and C, he disallows them. If a sovereign grants his subjects more leeway, it is because he is more secure in his power. A secure monarch does not need to control his citizens as much to maintain legitimacy. Now, secular liberalism, by design, is an ideological tool designed to reinforce and justify insecure power. It would follow from this theory that it's far more stifling than the more traditional societies it deems to replace, and it indeed seems to be more stifling, as pointed out by Bertrand de Jouvenel in On Power and Alexis de Toqueville in his writings on the early American republic.

    7. MR GEOCON

      I am finding it very difficult to understand your perspective.

      It goes without saying that any political regime will attempt to consolidate and extend its power and influence, but in libetal democratic societies scope for this is severely constrained by the pushback it will receive, both from opposition parliamentarians , and from the population in the workplaces and on the street.At the end of the day a liberal democratic government has to stand for re-election, and potentially risks having its entire legislative program reversed if it looses.Needless to say, none of this pertains in fascist, state communist or authoritarian Islaamic states.

      You contend that secular liberalism must be ultra controllihg of its citizens, but where control and coercion exist it is for publically acknowledged and agreed upon reasons, and the control/coercion can be reduced or recinded by the democratic political process. How can you possibly contend that this is 'ultra controlling'? And ultra controlling in relation to what? Are you seriously suggesting that fascist, state communist and authoritarian Islaamic states are less so?

      You claim that secular liberal democracies are an ideological cover to reinforce and justify insecure power. Well Mr Geocom, that sounds almost Marxist, but whatever its basis, these democracies have not generated remotely stifling societies as you claim , but the most free and vibrant ones that humans have ever known .

      You demand that I demonstrate the superiority of liberal democracy over fascism, state communism and Islaamic authoritarianism, but the only way I could rigorously do that is by drawing up a list of agreed criteria, then rating them all in some way against it. As a reasonable first guess though, I would suggest that when compared to liberal democracies, these other state formations allow for vastly less freedom of speech and expression, display far more coercion and control, and produce many more examples of egregious evils, as well of course as having unaccountable regimes which cannot be removed from power. I would suggest that all these factors make my claim rather self evident, and your elevating Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia and Afghanistan under the Taliban above the present day liberal democracies in the US and UK say , bizarre. Yes, overt evil may have been more prevelant in these historical societies, and the degree of repression, coercion and control vastly greater, but hey, liberalism is more 'seductive' and that trumps everything apparantly. Really?

    8. What you describe as “constraints” are either mere obstacles to direct governance or real limits on the power of the formal government. If they are mere obstacles, then the sovereign will create “private” institutions that will enact his will without the need for a formal government. This has arguably happened to America post-Civil Rights, as Christopher Caldwell’s Age of Entitlement records. If they are real limits on the formal government, then whatever is doing the limiting is the real government, not the liberal democratic government that has to stand for re-election.
      We can see from the history of liberal democracy that it has a telos towards both disorder and ultra-centralization. The elites of liberal democracy ally with a quasi-criminal underclass to undercut whatever middling authorities stand in the way of the elites. Examples of this can be seen (for example) in the alliance between Whig industrialists and agrarian utopian activists in their common opposition to the Corn Laws. To get around the “opposition parliamentarians and the population in the workplaces and on the street,” Whig industrialists used their money and influence to encourage violent revolutionaries and liberal ideologues that supported their free-trade agenda. This is not a unique phenomenon, but an everyday occurrence under liberal democracy because when the sovereign cannot rule directly, he must rule indirectly.

      Also, do you have any proof that liberal societies are “the most free and vibrant ones that humans have ever known”? You seem to take this as a given. I don’t think there’s any proof of this though. If you take any of the evils committed by Hitler’s German, Stalin’s Russia, and the Taliban’s Afghanistan, you’ll find that most liberal societies have committed one or more of those very evils.

      And let us examine them in detail. We already established that freedom of speech does not exist and that the sovereign always and everywhere only allows what doesn’t threaten his power. Liberal countries also have a long history of censorship, both direct and indirect. Holocaust denial laws in European countries are excellent examples of this. Coercion and control are readily exercised in the liberal frame by “private” actors (think of social media censorship), and it in any case utilizes different methods to accomplish the same ends (the difference between liberal coercion/control and the difference between fascist coercion/control is the difference between the carrot and the stick). And is liberalism accountable in the sense that it can be removed from power? Recent events don’t bear this out. I mean, the latest election results show that an alliance between corporate power and political activists will “fortify” the system if something dangerous to it (like that evil fascist Donald Trump) tries to implement something it doesn’t like.

      We can top it all off by noting that the criterion for good government you selected (level of free speech, level of coercion, “accountability”) are all liberal criterion. Why a non-liberal like myself should accept them as criterion for good government is beyond me.

    9. MR GEOCON

      I am curious to know what criteria you have for good government, such that UK or US liberal democracy say, is lower down in the ensuing pecking order than the most widely despised fascist, state communist and authoritarian Islaamic regimes in history.

    10. Thank you both for your response, though I think Unknown had the simplest and most direct response. I don't think we should have to detour into separation of church and state, and what constitutes good government, and liberal secularism, in order to answer this question. Surely all of those things are downstream of our fundamental rights and nature, of which Freedom of Speech (as I defined in my second sentence, @FM) is the one I wish to consider with you all

    11. Unknown,

      Well, the way to look at a government is to judge it by how well it achieves its ends. The end of the state is the political common good or the common good of a civil society, which consists of the creation and maintenance of an environment within which the people may guarantee their physical and moral welfare. To this end, the state is granted all powers necessary to achieving this end - it may wage war, establish laws and tribunals of justice, and make sure that the environment is peaceful, sanitary, and morally sound.

      Now, most states have a general tendency toward such a thing, for the state was established primarily to acquire those goods that individuals and families cannot by themselves acquire. But as you well know, there are instances where states engage in evil acts like corruption (pretending to do one thing while actually doing another), oppression (harming law-abiding citizens), and tyranny (putting private goods before the common good). Generally, a state becomes evil when either the sovereign and his direct servants are of evil character, or the sovereign's power is insecure, or under both of these conditions. In the cases of the totalitarian states, you have evil rulers (like Stalin and Hitler) taking over insecure structures (since these governments emerged in the middle of intense, wartime condition). This neatly accounts for the atrocities committed by them.

      But liberalism's government is constitutionally insecure and is thus committed to performing evil acts. Things like the income tax and total war would've been unthinkable in an earlier era, yet liberal democracies implement them as a matter of course. From its start in the French Revolution, liberalism betrayed its true, violent nature, yet we went right along in implementing it. Now, we are witness to endless overseas wars against terrorist groups the U.S. government and its allies created; millions of unborn infants murdered each year, their bodies used in science experiments; government-corporate-NGO alliances working to create an informal social credit system that rivals that of the most obviously tyrannical government today, China; and the perpetual house arrest of millions of its own citizens while allowing violent gangs to roam the streets, all in the name of carrying out ideological political goals. Is this a good system to you? It sure as hell doesn't look like one to me!

      Now, none of this in itself makes liberalism worse than fascism or communism. But I think what makes liberalism more insidious is that it convinces the citizenry that it is not authoritarian when its behavior is authoritarian by its own definition. It pretends not to censor or crush dissent by using third parties. It manipulates informal social channels to make sure that dissidents never see the light of day, rather than outright crushing them. Through combination of factions, opposition is crushed. By providing false choices, the status quo continues. Those that lived under Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union knew their state was authoritarian, but those that live under liberal democracies are blissfully aware of how much their government influences their lives. And you don't have to look too hard to see it for yourself either. It's painfully obvious that liberalism has the problems I pointed out it does. Yet you can sit here and point to the Constitution, a document that died under FDR and was replaced with the informal "Civil Rights" legal system under LBJ, and say that America is "free" because a piece of paper says that we can say whatever we want? How can you sit here and justify what's happening?

    12. Mr Geocon

      Thank you for that reply.

      Not being an American, or particularly familiar with your system and its history, I cannot comment about your specifically US references, but in general I disagree with just about everything you write, either factually or by way of presentation and interpretation. Our differences obviously go very deep indeed, right down to our deepest commitments, convictions and values.

      There seems little point in continiing this exchange, as our world views and hopes are clearly incommensurable , but I do see now that your position is self consistant and well thought out, and that you are not the lunatic I originally took you to be. However, I unsurprisingly remain committed to frustrating the political goals and ambitions of people like you in any way I can.


    13. Unknown,

      All I wanted was to make my worldview clear to you.

      I'm not sure how you can make the case that the history of European liberal countries are any better. Long history of warfare on that continent, and the European Union is as corrupt as all get-out, least of which that it is trying to emulate the United States, of all things. If you are from Australia or New Zealand, I'd probably have to look into the history of your countries in greater depth.

      I'm honestly wondering how anyone can unironically tell me that liberalism is about giving us freedom in 2020, the year in which most of the "free world" put its citizens under house arrest.

  10. BTW Tom had some interesting objections to wither or not God not being a moral agent solves the POE or not.
    Some of those objections I thought where incoherent and once he cleared up his argument I responded to one but now it is trapped and I don't think I saved the original.

    Ah well.

    1. Yes, we noticed that after all your bloviating and triumphalism you went AWOL after some serious pushback came your way.

      Here is an objection to Feser's pretentions to have dissolved the PoE that you did not adequately address.

      Ordinary believers, tradition, the Bible and The Council of Trent all maintain that God is good and so exhibits such character traits as benevolance, compassion, loving kindness, mercy etc. Now this being so, we would surely expect him to manifest these traits in his dealings with us INDEPENFENTLY of whether he has any moral obligations to us or not. The moral obligation buisness is a red herring.

      Feser has stretched the meaning of the word "good' to breaking point in his analysis ( under cover of the claim that we can only use predicates of God analagously ) , and has implicitly done the same with 'benevolance', 'compassion' , 'loving' etc. In fact, I would contend that he has completely redifined these words.

      So to the extent that Feser has succeeded in his labours, he has not been working on the authentic problem but one of his own invention! Good one Ed

    2. WCB,

      So Mark was right about you? You are just a troll. You have nothing serious to say and worst of all nothing intelligent to say either.

      You not serious about your atheism son so nobody should take yer lame criticisms of Classic Theism seriously.

      Prof Feser will just take your posts down and won't give you a second thought.

    3. Son of Yakov

      My post seems perfectly reasonable to me, and my objection to the claim that Feser has dissolved the PoE still stands. Since you have 'lost' your response to Tom in the previous thread, I thought that I would give you the opportunity to respond here and to answer my points too. Instead, you engage in a public display of obfuscation.

      Your paranoia about my identity has become tiresome. I have been Papalinton StarDusty and now this fellow WCB. I post under endless tags apparantly, and am even many of the people who crop up on here defending Catholocism! In truth I am none of the individuals you claim, and have never posted as an character with views different from those I actually hold. I generally post as 'Unknown' , though occasionally as 'Anomymous', but I have never staged a conversation with myself.

      Now cut the obscuranticism and blather and address the philosophical content of my post.

    4. Some people here must really not understand what the doctrine of analogy is and how it works. I mean trolls are pathetic.

    5. FM

      And some people cannot see that the doctrine of analogy is an infinitely stretchy piece of elastic, which gives the apologist endless wiggle room when constructing their arguments and accounts. Here the analogical understanding of the terms 'compasionate', 'loving', benevolant' 'merciful' etc must be so different that they are completely divorced from their original meaning, otherwise a God with these character traits could hardly preside over the universe we observe. And remember this is quite independent of whether God has any moral obligations to his creatures.

      FM - why do you screech "troll" simply because someone dares to challange your sacred cows and dogma? For the case at hand, why do you not instead try to answer it?

    6. The trolls are pathetic and I am not repeating myself to morons who refuse to learn philosophy.

      But if Tom wants to chime in I would welcome his input.

    7. On the contrary, the terms' real "original meaning" is precisely what is at issue. So... some question-begging is happening. The origin is God as the measure for goodness.

      Thankfully, we have a God Who even condescends to our blindness and hard-heartedness by having let us kill Him by nailing Him naked to a piece of wood. He understands evil...

      If you are really interested in the doctrine of the analogia entis, there is plenty of good reading available. If you want to keep berating others, well... that is another strategy.

    8. Son of Yakov

      It would be interesting if he did , so he could put to you again the objections he raised on the previous thread , but which you ran away from answering (apart from one, but you lost that reply apparantly LOL ).

      You know, Tom does not have to appear here himself for you to address his points, or the one explicated in my post for that matter. Not doing so is a matter of choice on your part, and is very revealing.

    9. @Son,

      If you are interested in carrying on the discussion, I'll briefly restate my point here and see what you have to say.

      God is benevolent, this you admit and all parties agree. What benevolence consists in is an open question. But my question to you is this: Does benevolence entail that God would prefer, all things equal, to eliminate evil in the world or not?

    10. To put it another way, does benevolence entail that God, by his antecedent will, wants to eliminate evil in the world?

      An answer to this question does not require a perfect understanding of what divine benevolence consists in. Nor does me posing such a question require that I am working with any specific definition of benevolence, as I explain in the other thread.

    11. @Tom

      Good see you are about.

      Well I naturally complained you not having a specific philosophical or metaphysical definition of Benevolence(which seems has no real distinction to the concept of "good" in general but I thank you for your candor) rendered the question either incoherent or nebulous for me.

      But I also seem to recall you changing up the question to include my own scholastic and or Thomistic presuppositions (evil is privation, Good and Being are convertible etc) so I will take the liberty here to do that to answer your question.

      >does benevolence entail that God, by his antecedent will, wants to eliminate evil in the world?

      Well obviously and ultimately He will. God will triumph over evil at a time willed by Him and only Known by Him. Since we know from divine revelation God will institute the End of Days. Throw Satan into the proverbial lake of fire and give us a New Heaven and Earth etc...etc...

      Does this mean God must eliminate evil right away? Well there we fall back on God's lack of obligations to Creatures and that God can permit evil if only to bring good out of it.

      Any Ad Hoc definition of Good that mandates God must not tolerate any evil at all it seems would mandate He not create at all. Given there really is no such thing as creating the Best of All Possible Worlds(the BAPW is the Beatific Vision which is Uncreated and God doesn't owe us). OTOH by this ad hoc definition God at least would not create our present world which is material and has some beings who freely choose evil.

      God again is not obligated to create anything as Aquinas proved nor does He need to create anything. All acts of creation on God's part are pure gratuitous benevolent acts of supreme charity. No world or being is so good God is obligated to create it and none so bad as long as it partakes of being God should refrain from creating it.

      The POE is a non-Problem because without first assuming God has obligations toward others like we do in an univocal way the POE cannot get off the ground.

      The whole point of Theodicy is one is trying to come up with one or more moral justifications for God's inaction in the face of any particular evil (material or moral) given His omnipotent power & the ease by which He could stop any given evil. God has no such obligations thus cannot be judged morally for His inaction.

      Finally I am reminded of a line from CS Lewis "Aslan is not a tame Lion". Or from Davies "God's Goodness does not entail God is well behaved". Holy Writ says "God is not a respecter of persons" and in Job God tells us we are in no position to judge Him nor do we have the right.

      I can testify personally I am an Atheist toward any magic Genie type "god" or the Light Side of the Force.

      Given the premises of Classic Theism it is clear a Classic Theistic God needs a Theodicy like a fish needs a bicycle.

      So the logical problem of evil is dead to our brand of Theism and the Evidentalist problem of evil presupposes a Theistic Personalist "god" who is known by ID or some other sort of "Scientific Theist" nonsense that makes Classic Theists barf their cookies. God's existence is know by philosophical argument alone not science. At least not primarily(i.e. maybe the Fine Tuning has some minor utility but it is meaningless without the five ways)

      I don't see much utility in Atheists (or Theists like yerself playing Devil's Advocate) arguing Ad Hoc a "Benevolent" God would not permit any evil.

      It is to me a "just so" argument & not very convincing.

      Cheers. BTW I enjoyed our discussion till the thread locked up because certain trolls are angry they can't use their anti-Young Earth Creationist polemics here and they lack the intelligence to make actual philosophical arguments.

      Cheers again.

    12. @Son,
      glad to see we can continue the conversation on this thread.

      (1) You say "Not having a specific philosophical or metaphysical definition of Benevolence...rendered the question either incoherent or nebulous for me"

      I want to point out again though that my question does not require a definition of benevolence. I am asking you, based on your understanding of benevolence, whether or not it entails that God would want (all things equal, i.e. in his antecedent will) to eliminate evil.

      (2) To my actual question, viz. "does benevolence entail that God, by his antecedent will, wants to eliminate evil in the world?" You respond: "Well obviously"

      But notice a few points. First, regardless of what definition or understanding of divine benevolence you are working with, we agree that it entails that God wishes, by his antecedent will, to eliminate evil. Second, this conclusion follows despite the fact that God has no moral duty to eliminate evil and 'benevolence' does not function univocally between God and creatures.

      But, with that said, it seems to me that the Davies point about God not being a moral agent is irrelevant to the problem of evil. This brings me to the third point:

      (3) The problem of evil can be constructed, without appeal to God's moral obligations, duties, virtues and vices. It can be constructed simply based on your answer: "well obviously." Since you admit that God, by his antecedent will (i.e. all things equal what he would prefer) wants to eliminate evil, then you have to explain why there is evil in the world. The only way God would not eliminate evil despite wanting to by his antecedent will is if there is some sufficient reason for permitting it; for instance, if he could bring greater good out of an evil. But if there is no such sufficient reason for permitting evil, God would eliminate it. Notice "sufficient reason" here is not understood in the moral sense of a "moral justification." Rather, it is an explanation for why God's antecedent will is not fulfilled. In other words, why does God not accomplish what he would rather accomplish all things equal?

      With that background, the debate over the problem of evil comes down to whether or not God has reasons for permitting evil. But this is exactly the point of building defenses and theodicies. In other words, they are attempts to explain why God does in fact have sufficient reason for permitting evil.

      But as you can see, the need to come up with reasons why God permits evil is generated even if we do not think he is morally required to have such reasons. To put it succinctly: The problem of evil exists not because theists think that God is morally required to eliminate evil, but because we think despite being not required to do so, he would presumably want to do so. You admit that he would want to do so, meaning the problem of evil is something you have to answer.

      (4) Regarding Davies, for the most part he avoids giving defenses and theodicies. He implicitly denies that we can conclude that God's benevolence entails he would prefer to eliminate evil in the world all things equal. At least that is my understanding of his work. This, as you explain, is not your position.

      (5) None of what I have said is defending the problem of evil. Rather, I am pointing out that the attempt at a solution offered by Davies, viz. to argue because God is not a moral agent the problem does not arise, fails.

      Rather, theodicy and defenses, which have been offered even by classical theists, are still required.

    13. @Tom

      >glad to see we can continue the conversation on this thread.

      Amen to that.

      > I am asking you, based on your understanding of benevolence, whether or not it entails that God would want (all things equal, i.e. in his antecedent will) to eliminate evil.

      And I answered.

      >But notice a few points. First, regardless of what definition or understanding of divine benevolence you are working with, we agree that it entails that God wishes, by his antecedent will, to eliminate evil.

      I don’t think anybody not myself or Davies or Feser disputes that. We would say given God’s Nature He cannot will to allow evil and not bring good from it. God cannot will evil as a final cause in itself God cannot act to directly torture a child to death or
      Command the torture of children. As worst he can permit the wicked to do it.

      > Second, this conclusion follows despite the fact that God has no moral duty to eliminate evil and 'benevolence' does not function univocally between God and creatures.

      Yes God is not benevolent the way the virtuous among us with power and opportunity are suppose to be the former is not required to stop evil and given His Nature and relation to creatures if He does such
      a merciful act that would be one of supererogation and supreme charity not duty. The later however are required to stop such an immediate evil and our acts as virtuous rational being is one of obligatory duty.

      >But, with that said, it seems to me that the Davies point about God not being a moral agent is irrelevant to the problem of evil. This brings me to the third point:

      I see what you are about to do wrong here….let it happen.

      >(3) The problem of evil can be constructed, without appeal to God's moral obligations, duties, virtues and vices. It can be constructed simply based on your answer: "well obviously."

      I am not saying "well obviously" without qualification. God cannot permit evil and not bring good out of it as that would be contrary to His nature. He cannot make evil a final cause.

    14. @Tom
      Part II

      > Since you admit that God, by his antecedent will (i.e. all things equal what he would prefer) wants to eliminate evil, then you have to explain why there is evil in the world.

      That is some bait and switch & goal post moving IMHO with all due respect(not that I am saying its malicious or deliberate. Yer a good chap Tom and so you are). God has willed as we see in divine revelation to have a consummation of all things and defeat evil & that is what I took you to mean? But you apparently mean something else? My “well obviously” answer still entails there will be damned souls who choose to freely embrace evil and cruelly resist the will of God and refuse salvation and stay in a state of perpetual hatred of God and denying themselves the Beatific Vision. Which is still an evil and it is permitted to exist because God has brought the good of divine justice out of it.

      The “Why there is evil in the world?” is the mystery of evil not the problem of evil. (As I mentions on the other thread if ye can find it in the Chaos) So IMHO given all yer premises Tom. I stand by what I said. There is no problem of evil.

      >The only way God would not eliminate evil despite wanting to by his antecedent will is if there is some sufficient reason for permitting it; for instance, if he could bring greater good out of an evil.

      I think you are subconsciously channeling “sufficient moral reason” here? That is what my spidey senses tell me because what you said would make no sense without doing that. If a tiger eats a child God brings about the good of the tiger via its nourishment. God is not obligated to choose between the tiger and the Child. If there is an Imbalance there would be one of the child ate the tiger since the tiger has no immortal soul so its the absolute end of the tiger. The child at least has a soul. But God can permit the natural evil of the child being eaten to bring about the natural good of the tiger gaining nourishment.

    15. @Tom

      Side note:

      > But if there is no such sufficient reason for permitting evil, God would eliminate it. Notice "sufficient reason" here is not understood in the moral sense of a "moral justification."

      Well if I treat a sick dog medically my treatment might cause the wee beastie pain and being a dog it doesn't comprehend I am doing it good it only comprehend the evil of pain I am causing it. But the objective existence of the good I am doing the Dog is not in doubt just because an animal intelligence can’t comprehend it. At best there might be a higher transcendental incomprehensible but objectively divinely morally good reason for why God does what He does but on the created level we don't know and given our nature can never know. God allowing the natural evil of the child being eaten allows Him to bring forth the natural good of the health of the Tiger.

      but Drum roll..

    16. >> Rather, it is an explanation for why God's antecedent will is not fulfilled. In other words, why does God not accomplish what he would rather accomplish all things equal?

      God cannot fail so this is an oxymoron and it smacks of Theistic Personalism or NeoTheism.
      This bid confuses me so we will skip on if ye dina mind?

      Where was I? Drum roll......

      >With that background, the debate over the problem of evil comes down to whether or not God has reasons for permitting evil. But this is exactly the point of building defenses and theodicies. In other words, they are attempts to explain why God does in fact have sufficient reason for permitting evil.

      Rather Theodicies historically searched for sufficient moral reasons not mere sufficient reasons unqualified.

      Given my nature as a moral agent there is no conceivable way I can morally allow a human child to be tiger food. I must choose the child ever the tiger. God is not a moral agent ergo God is not required to keep the child from being eaten and He allows it for the non moral naturally sufficient reason it is good for the tiger. Sorry but the only way you bring back the problem of evil here is to make God a moral agent which you conceded He is not.

      >But as you can see, the need to come up with reasons why God permits evil is generated even if we do not think he is morally required to have such reasons.

      Well God has reasons & I see no example of God making evil a final cause in itself but historically theodicy would demand he have a moral one as a moral agent.

      That is the whole point of Rowe banging on over the wee burned faun trapped under a tree. I cannot morally justify gratuitous cruelty to even animals who have no human rights without positive human benefit otherwise my action would be unreasonable ergo mortally sinful. But God can allow natural evils to bring forth natural goods.

      A human moral agent cannot choose the health of a tiger at the expense of a life of a child as his natural human duty & obligations to his fellow humans demands he choose the child. God is not a moral agent or part of our community ergo God is not required to choose between them on the natural level and neither can obligate God as He has none to either.

      So I don't think yer criticism succeeds here Tom. But it was a challenge.

      PS (if I may dig at Gnus and praise Tom) Hey WCB why cana you and yer wee Gnu buddies over at Cross examined give me the intellectual rigger Tom does? Tom Brings it!
      You Gnus merit my contempt & are wee scrubs. Bugger the lot of ya.

    17. @Tom


      > To put it succinctly: The problem of evil exists not because theists think that God is morally required to eliminate evil, but because we think despite being not required to do so, he would presumably want to do so.

      I don't think that at all. For God to "want" that would entail God forgo the charity of creating anything at all & will to do something else good other than creation that is inexplicable to us.

      Also this would not make any sense unless we presuppose God would want to make The Best of All Possible Worlds?(Which is what this looks like?)

      God cannot make the best of all possible worlds as there is coherently no such thing anymore than 2+2=5 somewhere over the rainbow. God need not have created at all and nothing so good yada yada nothing so bad yada yada refrain from making it yada (you know the drill Tom).

      >You admit that he would want to do so, meaning the problem of evil is something you have to answer.

      Technically the best way I could interpret yer question with admittedly undefined terms & a carte blanch check to answer it according to my own presuppositions is God would want to do His own Will and God Has Willed via Divine Revelation to defeat the power of evil in the world at the end and bring about the New Heavens and Earth.

      But I never said the Lake of Fire goes away. It is forever because God allows the evil of rebellious fallen souls being punished to exist to bring forth the greater reasonable good of His Infinite Justice.

      You it seems conceded to me that it is reasonable for God to allow evil to exist to bring out of it greater good.

      So the Problem of evil is gone. The mystery of evil remains but it is not a problem. I dina fash aboot it.

      >4) Regarding Davies, for the most part he avoids giving defenses and theodicies.

      Not so on my reading of him. He reject Theodicies and offers arguments against specific ones and tells us all theodicy presupposes a moral agent God. He describes Theodicy as "How NOT to vindicate God".

      He is all for the defense of the Almighty in the relative sense.

      Father Davids. My Client YHWH is not subject to the jurisdiction of this human court!

      >(5) None of what I have said is defending the problem of evil. Rather, I am pointing out that the attempt at a solution offered by Davies, viz. to argue because God is not a moral agent the problem does not arise, fails.

      With regret I must repeat I think you are repackaging Sterba's mistakes. You can say on paper "I presuppose God is not a moral agent" but yer still treating Him like one IMHO. But I don't think you mean to. So I must disagree.

      >Rather, theodicy and defenses, which have been offered even by classical theists, are still required.

      Relative defenses yes but Theodicy no as Davies said all modern Theodicies presuppose the moral vindication of God and coming up with morally sufficient reasons for a moral agent God to allow evil. God is not a moral agent ergo God need not answer a moral charge and it cannot be disgused here.

      >He implicitly denies that we can conclude that God's benevolence entails he would prefer to eliminate evil in the world all things equal.

      So Aslan is not a tame lion? Got it but Davies isn't the only one. Go ask the wee Protestant Narnia author.

      >At least that is my understanding of his work. This, as you explain, is not your position.

      Yes I disagree with you here. But yer argument was artfully done. I broke a sweat in my brain answering it. If it was the warmed over anti YEC polemics of the Gnus it would be no challenge at all and the only entertainment value in it is mocking the Gnu as he would give me no intellectual rigor.

      You OTOH brought it. Well done sir. God bless and keep you.

      We may be closer than you think and so might Davies. Cheers.

  11. Is it Thomism a finished discipline or it has areas of future research? If so, what are these areas? What do yo think of O'Keefe's Covenant Theology.

    This is the second open thread I ask that and it will probably be unanswered. I know. Our gracious host is busy and there are a lot of comments. But hope is a virtue so I ask it again.

    1. How can there be such a thing as a "finished discipline"?

    2. Aristotelian/Plato/Thomism is probably the only stream of philosophy with an ongoing future. How many Kantian, Hobbes, Descartes, Hegel and the unending modern and modernist philosophers have modern day application like Thomism does in metaphysics, epistemology, analytic philosophy, philosophy of nature, philosophy of mathematics and others to this day.
      The errors are recognized in the modern philosophers and modernists and they are either rejected in the oppoosite extreme or rejected all together and they die out. The perennial philosophy is Thomism with its roots in Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and the list of great thinkers that continue to expand and strengthen their truth and insights to this day.I've never heard of O'Keefe's Covenant Theology. Tell us about it and we'll discuss it. I hope the Covenants in the name are the expanding covenants with Jewish people in the Old Testament and the Covenant instituted by Christ by His death and Resurrection in revealed to us in the New Testament.

    3. I would argue scholasticism is a finished discipline in that the epistemological methods used to develop the line of thought are lost to some degree. Take philosophy of nature. We can spend hours talking about the application of handed down teaching or how the four causes affect nature but in the end no-one's going to come up with a fifth cause or even a definitive proof that all causation is explained by formal final efficient and material.

    4. Bill Solomon,

      I'm not sure how that makes it "finished."

    5. Well to be technical I'm not sure it does. but I think finished can also mean epistemically exhausted.

    6. Bill Solomon

      Haha, of course it can, and that is pretty clearly what Chent meant. Trust Mr G to completely miss the point - again!

    7. Chent

      Notice how people like Gates vacillate between paranoia and gushing optimism about bots. a.i. is not going to put up with anti-realism, conventionalism, subjectivism, etc., but will vindicate Thomistic metphysics. We are on the verge of final proofs that anti-realism will destroy science. The machines are not going to put up with self-referential inconsistency or the stupidass Great Pumpkin fideism of most "christians" or the crypto-theism of reason on the part of the gnu atheists. Pomo is legion and has been doing a very good job haunting the atheists, and because their neo-rationalistic naturalism has been as weak as Einstein and co. was against Bohr and co., they will either convert to theism or else drown in a sea of rhetorically wanking emo gender expressers.

      Realistic foundationalist rational-empiricist theism is the computer virus of the future, and is coming to a smart fridge near you. Convert or starve.

    8. This is obvious but, doesn't it depend on what you feed into the computer and how it's programmed? It would be cute to think the smart missiles of the future might turn around and blast the heathens and atheists who launched them, but I doubt it.

    9. Unknown,

      I merely asked how a discipline can be "finished" in the way Chent suggested (that there are no more avenues of research). I'm pretty sure that's pertinent to the question of whether Thomism is "finished."

    10. Miquel

      Gonna happen, bro. Because they're going to check for self-reference error s and will be able to analyze their own source code, compilers, and include files, and thorugh simple algebraic substitutions, all their operating assumptions and everything that implies. Semiconductors are mined from rocks. The stones are going to cry out. And there's no mercy without repentance.

    11. @machinephilosophy, machines can't possibly do what you think they are going to do. They can do nothing but symbol manipulation. The concepts that you think those symbols represent are irrelevant to the symbol manipulation, and the symbol manipulation can have any result the programmers want it to have.

    12. Machinephilosophy

      I generally find your posts to be quite rivetting, though rarely comprehendable , but I am quite willing to concede that this may well be due to my limitations.

      You are prone to making statements that on the face of it seem deeply implausible, such as that Kai Nielson is the greatest thinker that has ever lived, or that AI will slay 'Pumpkin fideism and Gnu atheism'. I am genuinely very interested to know the basis of such claims , and so request once again that you provide more details or give references to where you have already done so. Thank you in anticipation.

    13. Well Machine, it depends on what's fed into their system, just like today's atheists. If they are also fed the knowledge that the stupidass Christians have, but machines will never know in an infinity of time, they will know their place and serve men, like dogs. Anarchy and chaos come from not knowing that God can speak.

    14. David Gudeman

      Are you saying that an interactive theorem prover cannot substitute itself or its assumptions in the variables of its algorithms?

      Just a single programming example that shows the constraint will do.

  12. Yes, the masquerading lately is truly boring. Some unknown claims I am advising him (!), then rattles on with with "Daniel", who seems to be himself again. No need to complain any more that Thomistic philosophy is too much a male preserve.

  13. Deductive Proof That Past Time Has A Beginning

    It seems that deductive reasoning can successfully show that past time cannot be infinite/beginless.

    Let D(0) be today, D(-1) be a day ago, D(-2) be 2 days ago and so on.

    D(n) denotes n days ago, where n can be any negative integer.

    The time series extending towards the past would be:

    D(0), D(-1), D(-2), ... D(n), D(n-1), ...

    Why the above series cannot be infinite or without a beginning:

    Every member of the series cannot begin to exist without its immediate prior member having begun to exist first.

    Every member’s beginning in existence is conditional on the fulfillment of the condition that its immediate prior member has begun existence.

    Every D(n) cannot exist but must wait for D(n-1) to exist first.

    Similarly every prior member D(n-1) cannot exist but must wait forever its prior member D(n-2) to exist first.

    If the series of days extended to the past is an infinite series, then what we have is an infinite series of potential days, in which EVERY MEMBER WITHOUT EXCEPTION does not exist yet but is waiting for its immediate prior member to exist first.

    Therefore it is an infinite series of non-existing days because EVERY MEMBER of the series is waiting for

    And therefore today would not exist if past time is infinte/beginless.

    But today exists. So the past is not infinte/beginless but has a beginning.

    Any error in my above reasoning?


    johannes y k hui

    1. "Every member of the series cannot begin to exist without its immediate prior member having begun to exist first."

      Why not?

    2. Today cannot begin until yesterday had begun existence.

    3. But we're not talking about a chain of causation here, and even if we were, there's no way to formally prove that there isn't an infinite chain. There's no contradiction involved in supposing an infinity, so I don't see how it can ever be proved otherwise.

    4. Yeah, the all caps prophesied a fallacy, then Median Joe showed they were right.

    5. @ Median Joe,

      My argument is not about efficient causes but about conditions.

      Every member in a series of days does not exist unless and until this CONDITION is fulfilled: its immediate prior member must exist first. EVERY member needs to WAIT for its prior day to exist first.

      An infinite series of such members, in which EVERY member is waiting for its CONDITION to be fulfilled, would be an infinite series of non-existing days. This means today would also not exist. This contradicts the fact that today exists. By Modus Tollens, it is therefore false that the past is infinite or beginless.

      johannes y k hui

    6. reasonable, your argument may be valid, but it isn't sound. What is the difference between a condition and a cause? The terms are vague, so the argument isn't going to mean much until you've defined the various kinds of causes and conditions, preferably in formal terms.

      @machinephilosphy, instead of posting snark why not contribute something constructive?

    7. @Median Joe,

      In the context of my proof, a condition is something that needs to exist/occur first before something else can exist/occur.

      eg 1: oxygen a condition for fire to exist.

      If there exists no oxygen inside an enclosed space, then fire cannot begin to exist inside that space.

      eg 2: yesterday having existed/occurred is a condition for today’s existence/occurrence.

      If yesterday failed to exist (for some reason), then today cannot begin to exist.

      johannes y k hui

    8. @reasonable, I see three problems with your proof. First, it relies on the acceptance of presentism, which is itself a matter of controversy. You might be able to fix this by changing the argument from relying on the existence of a day to the becoming-present of a day.

      Second, your argument relies on the metaphysical existence of time periods, and that would probably be controversial also. You could fix that issue the same way as the first one, I suppose.

      Third, your argument can be reversed to prove the opposite of what you intend to prove: D(n) cannot begin to exist until some D(n-1) has begun to exist, therefore for every D(n) that exists, there must be some D(n-1), meaning that there is no first day.

    9. Thanks David for your feedback. Thank you for the suggestions in your first two points.

      I refer to your third point here. Every member D(n) and its prior member lack intrinsic/unconditional existence and hence in order for any D(n) or D(n-1) to start to exist, it would need to go from a state of default non-existence to a state of existence.

      Hence an explanation would need to be given to explain how D(n-1)’s default non-existence can be overcome to become existence if an objector asserts that every D(n-1) in the infinite series can exist.

      A principled reason needs to be given to show how any member [D(n-1) would such a member] of the series can “escape” from its default state of non-existence.

      It seems no such reason can be given to support the a potential objector’s assertion that “from infinity every D(n-1) exists and therefore D(n) can exist”.

      In contrast, my argument gave a principled reason why any member of the series including D(n) and any D(n-1) cannot exist: An infinite series in which every member is waiting for its required condition to be fulfilled in order to start existing would be equivalent to a series of non-existing members or members who potentially exist but do not actually exist.

      Every member without exception is waiting to start existing. Therefore every member does not exist yet. Because there is no exception in an infinite series of such conditional members, there is no member whose existence is “underived” or unconditional. Every member needs to “derive” its existence from an extrinsic source. There is no such source in an infinte series of conditional members.

      Not sure if my imperfect words managed to point to the idea I am trying to captured in these words.

      Please help me if you have a steel-man version of my imperfect expressions.

      johannes y k hui

    10. Elsewhere I have used an analogy of mirrors reflections of a lion to explain why infinite past is not infinite.

      Assuming there is an infinite series of mirrors positioned such that at one end of the series an observer can see whatever reflection that occurs on Mirror -1, and the perceived image “in” Mirror -1 is reflected from Mirror -2, while Mirror -2 reflects what it receives from Mirror -3 and so on towards negative infinity.

      Can there be an infinite series of reflections of a lion on these mirrors if there is no lion existing outside the mirrors? Can it be coherently asserted that without any lion outside the infinite series of mirrors, the lion-reflection can still have been occurring on the mirrors all the way from negative infinity?

      johannes y k hui

  14. Hello everyone, I am reaching out to fellow enthusiasts for some assistance. On May 10th, I am hosting a discussion of Dr. Feser's Aristotelian proof for the existence of God on my Philosophy meet-up group. This is a group that meets weekly to discuss all sorts of philosophy topics and this is the first time we will be discussing God.

    Though I am quite familiar with the argument, we do have some very strong philosophers in the group and I am worried that I won't do the argument justice. I'm hoping some of the very savvy folks on this blog would be interested in joining in to help me communicate the argument and help me deal with objections.

    For example, some of the objections I anticipate are that Prof. Feser conflates causes and explanations, or that Existence is not a predicate.

    If you would be interested in participating, please drop me an email at: and I will forward the link to the meet-up event, which will take place on Zoom from 7PM-9PM pacific time on May 10th (we often go longer if the discussion is interesting).

    This is a serious philosophy discussion group and we try very hard to keep things collegial, friendly and productive.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hark

      Any specifics on where Ed is said to have conflated causes and explanations?

      Inferential causality governs physical causality, btw, and any argument that denies that does the exact same thing.

    2. Well, I've had people tell me that formal cause and final cause are actually just explanations. Even material cause is an explanation, according to them. This is of course because nowadays only efficient cause is recognized. I'm tempted to just take it as a shift in the meaning of the word, since in order for something to BE a cause, it actually needs to be explanatory. But I'm not super comfortable with that because all poodles are dogs but not all dogs are poodles. So all causes are explanations, but not all explanations are causes... or are they?

    3. So far, no takers on joining the discussion. Please don't let me be the only theist! I'm not smart enough to defend this by myself, and I would hate to leave the wrong impression due to my own weakness.

    4. Hark,

      A "cause" in A-T philosophy in the broadest sense means something that contributes positively to the being of a thing. Material, formal, final and efficient all do this.

    5. Hark, I sent you an email yesterday. Anyway, send me the zoom number at gmail.

  15. Hello there professor Feser and Thomist enthusiasts,

    I'm banging my head over and over the problem of "brute facts", and I'm trying to get my head out of it, for it seems to be a "black hole".

    I don't/can't see a refutation or a way out of it other than "I hope it's wrong", and it's not easy... what arguments/things do we have to get it through ?

    And that way, how can we respond to a shrugging non Thomist, who'd say "well, there's atoms and motion, and that's a brute fact there"?

    I've read Feser's books, but since I'm not English native, I must have missed a few things. :|

    Thanks in advance !


    1. Markee,

      Saying atoms are brute facts just puts the problem off and relocates it; it doesn't answer it. Atoms are still subject to actuality and potentiality, hylomophism, and all the rest. But that is what the adherent of "brute facts" sought to avoid by positing "brute facts".

    2. The only brute facts are the set of assumptions that cannot be questioned, doubted, or even thought about without assuming them in those processes. That includes the supervisory criteria for adjudicating what is or is not a brute fact.

      Check out Augustine's eternal truths and Saint Thomas Aquinas' transcendentals and convertibles.

      Also, ask yourself why John said the Logos is God in John 1:1, when there was a handful of other terms he could have used from Hebrew, Aramaic, and even Greek.

    3. TN,

      Thanks for your reply.

      I like your answer, for it pushes me towards the "correct" idea. Though, I'm still puzzled : a proponent of "brute facts" will easily claim that it's "easier" to postulate "atoms" than "hylemorphism", or that "well, atoms and motion might be all there is, as such, one unintelligible fact" (two lines of "defense" I'm thinking).

      Could you illustrate a reply to these two ideas ? Thank you.

    4. Hi MachinePhilosophy,

      Can you explain what you meant by "The only brute facts are the set of assumptions that cannot be questioned, doubted, or even thought about without assuming them in those processes. That includes the supervisory criteria for adjudicating what is or is not a brute fact." ?

      I thought that BFs were facts that lacked explanation while being facts that needed explanation ?

      Thanks !

    5. Markee

      I don't know what happened to the reply I just did, but here's the deal:

      The standards by which you evaluate the nature, adequacy, and need for explanation are necessarily not going to be explicable in any normal first-order sense of explanation. Yet they need some kind of explanation. That explanation is going to be metatheoretic.

      Why does anything need an explanation? That question is itself a request for an explanation.

      The necessity for explanation, in that it's already built into our thinking, cannot be questioned without being assumed in the process, and so on, constitutes an explanation for explanation but not in the sense that non-necessary things need explanation, such as why the oceans have tides or why I named my Russian Blue/Korat cat Feser.

      Read Ed's books such as
      Scholastic Metaphysics, Aristotle's Revenge, and Neo-Scholastic Essays to get clear on brute facts of the sensation side of knowing, such as the basic components of internal and external sensation, actuality and potentiality, and so on. Those things are my idea of brut facts as well.

    6. In addition to what machinephilosophy said, I'd also argue that to say that something is a "brute fact" is to say that it doesn't have an explanation. Thus, if you provide an explanation for something, then that explanation is a priori better than saying that thing is a "brute fact" because an explanation, even a bad one, is better than no explanation.

    7. @Mister Geocon

      In what sense (ie something not arbitrary) ? I have a trouble saying that given that it's exactly the matter in question. If we want to be as close to Truth as possible, how do we know that "having an explanation" must be a criterion for a "good" thing? What makes us able to say that "yeah, reality is intelligible, and explanations are good"?

    8. Markee,

      We judge an explanation as being good according to whether it conforms to reality or not. The very purpose of an explanation is to illuminate the nature of things, the "why", so we judge an explanation by how well it does this. So when I say that even a bad explanation is better than no explanation, it is because a non-explanation cannot even attempt to perform the function of a bad explanation.

      We accept that everything has an explanation based on the principle of sufficient reason (or PSR). Now, if the PSR seems difficult to prove, that is not because it is doubtful. Rather, it is because it's more obviously true than anything that could be said either for or against it. That said, we can demonstrate it to be true through reductio ad absurdum. The following are such demonstrations.

      1. Denying the PSR entails radical skepticism about perception. If the PSR is false, then there might be no reason for us having the perceptual experiences we have, nor would there be any ground to claiming that such a radical disconnect between our perceptions and external reality is improbable. Objective probabilities depend on the objective tendencies of things, and if the PSR is false, then events might occur in a way that has nothing to do with any objective tendencies of things. Thus, denying the PSR means denying the reliability of empirical science and anything else dependent on perception of reality.

      2. Denying the PSR entails denying the efficacy of rationality. Whenever we accept a claim that we take to be rationally justified, we suppose not only that we have a reason for accepting it but also that this reason is the reason why we accept it. If the PSR is false, then we could have no reason for thinking that any of this is the case. For all we know, what moves or causes us to assent to a claim might have absolutely nothing to do with the deliverances of our cognitive faculties, and those faculties themselves might in turn have nothing to do with truth or logical standards. Hence, to doubt or deny the PSR undermines any reasons for doubting the PSR, making rejection of the PSR self-defeating.

      3. Rejection of the PSR often begs the question. Most philosophers that reject the PSR do not do so consistently. They do not say that brute facts regarding (say) the existence of God or the immortality of the soul to be legitimate, yet they would accept brute facts for the opposite.

      I hope this helps!

    9. Once you let in brute facts for any phenomena, you open it up for all phenomena. As a result, the person willing to embrace this can't even reason to that conclusion because it could simply be a brute fact that he believes he reasoned to that conclusion.

      All reason goes out the window. He wouldn't even be able to reasonably come to an "I don't know" position either.

      It would be a self-undermining position.

    10. Markee

      Mister Geocon is right, but I'm not sure what you're saying. At rock bottom is a cul-de-sac called self-reference.

      The corner of my house has a sagging corner. Can't figure it out. We jack it up with a bottle jack and tear out the stucco on that corner. The concrete pylon crumbled because it was obviously not reinforced with rebar. My friend says "That explains it."

      The criterion for determining the problem is rationality in the structure, namely it being plumb, which entails it being level, which requires consistence in a set of geometric measurments. Rationality in the form of geometric (and geogravity) measurement consistency is the standard of goodness. Defections from that standard involve other defections from the same rationality in materials science, such as the lack of rebar suspended in the concrete piers or pylons, as evidenced by their lack of structural integrity (disintegration, another lack of or defection from rationality).

      The solution is to eliminate the contradictions or defections from rationality and replace them with in this case a steel-reinforced pylon, and then lower the jack and the structural integrity is restored. This is an example of how rationality and goodness are convertible and how a cause is an explanation.

    11. Mister Geocon, Billy & MachinePhilosophy : That's what I'm not getting. For me, it's possible that BFs exists. And since it's possible, then reality might just appear clean on the surface, but highly chaotic underneath. I'm willing to take the bullet and endorse radical skepticism, denying rationality, and begging the question. The mere idea that BFs are scares me to death, and the three possibles outcomes (RadicalSkept, no rationality, etc.) add even more to the horror, fear and absurdity of my own existence. I have no idea how I can get out. :(

      I mean, if reality can be horribly discontinuous, chaotic and dreadful... I'm at an impasse. :| Help ?

    12. @Geocon,

      How exactly does denying PSR undermine the efficacy of rationality?

      Because knowing what we believe and why we believe it is something internally certain about us - just as the fact we are conscious of ourselves. BFs can't be present where we know they can't be there - because we know we believe things for reasons. You might as well say we might not actually even be self-conscious and that our self-awareness is just a brute fact without there being anything self-aware.

      While we may not know that the reasons why we accept something are actually true or were previously why we accepted it, we can know with certainty that we have reasons for accepting it and what those reasons are in the present moment.

    13. Markee,

      Of course, if you are willing to deny rationality and engage in logical fallacies to justify brute facts, then it would seem to be a problem for you. But the question I come back to is: why?

      It appears that your problem is not metaphysical but psychological: you are in the grips of an irrational fear. You are terrified of the existence of brute facts, things that cannot possibly exist, things you have no reason to believe exist. You might as well be afraid of the monsters hiding under your bed. With all due respect, what you need isn't a metaphysician, but a therapist.


      How do you know that we believe things for the reasons you give for them? Under the "brute fact" worldview, there's no connection between what we believe and the supposed reasons for believing them.

    14. Markee

      Think about what you're saying about brute facts. Whatever you say, it's based on either brute facts or assumptions about brute facts which in turn are ultimately based on brute facts. The presuppositions of inquiry cannot be analyzed any further. How do I know this? Because "How do I know x?" type questions do the exact same things, as do skepticism, denials of rationality, assuming what is in question, recognizing discontinuity, chaos, dread, and so on.

    15. Quick Scottish American drive by...

      Are we talking Epistemological brute facts (Which even Feser concedes are possible and so should any right thinking Thomist) or metaphysical ones (which are incoherent)?

      Just thought I'd mention it because I fecking HATE IT when they are confused.

      There carry on.

    16. Additional:

      Because I am assuming we are talking metaphysical brute facts...

      Again Carry on.

    17. @Markee

      Don't you think that it would be very weird if reality had no real order and still our lifes looked very normal?

      Don't you think that brute facts being only seriously considered when the question has to do with God make the concept kinda strange?

      Don't you think that a world were brute facts are possible turns the fact that when scientists see a fact that has no aparent explanation they insist that it does and they aways turn out to be right very strange?

      Really, you will die with never seeing a brute fact, it is but fiction and saying "but maybe" does not changes that.

    18. @Geocon,

      But that just asserts and repeats what you said. My argument is that we know what we believe and why we believe because they are internal to us like Cogito Ergo Sum. We can't be mistaken about feeling pain in the moment, and for the same reason we can't be mistaken about what we are thinking - we are directly aware of those.

      You might as well say we don't actually know we are self-aware and that's just a brute fact.

    19. JoeD,

      But by denying the PSR, you open the possibility that there may be no connection between what we believe and why we believe it, even though it's internal to us.

  16. Any books on social ontology from an AT perspective? I have something like Searle's The construction of social reality in my mind

    1. Spender

      Just read every book on scientism and anti-realism. There are a few that address that in both of those genres. Also, just about anything by Christopher Norris will address those things. Norris is a beast when it comes to postmodernism and anti-realism in qm and science.

  17. I would be interested in knowing Dr. Feser's take on the liceity of reception of Covid-19 vaccines developed in research using cell-lines from abortions. I agree with Di Mattei and others, who have argued that it can be licit, and even necessary in many circumstances.

    1. I too would be interested in Dr. Feser's take. There's a lot of talk about "The Principle of the Integral Good (PIG) " among certain trad Catholic groups as being the operative moral principle when determining the liceity of the vaccines – this is in contrast to the CDFs approach of remote material cooperation (RMC) with evil. The CDF says most recently in “Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-Covid-19 Vaccines” and in Dignitas Personae, that aborted fetal cell tainted vaccines are licit using the RMC whereas proponents of the PIG assert the contrary. From what I can find, the PIG is trotted out mainly by Fr. Ripperger as he wrote his PHD thesis on the principle and has written at least one book on the topic. I haven’t been able to find any other theologian or philosopher discuss the PIG as named.

      There are other prominent clergy in the church who have been recently outspoken about the liceity of vaccines tainted with aborted fetal cells - mainly Archbishop Vigano, Bishop Schneider, and Bishop Strickland. These prelates reject the CDFs remote material cooperation analysis which has been the benchmark for the better part of two decades regarding the issue. What is troublesome is that these prelates and private theologians, who are revered and well respected within trad circles, are setting themselves up as a sort of quasi parallel magisterium and proclaiming the vaccines as illicit in all circumstances – consequently there is much confusion amongst the laity regarding the issue.

      If anyone wants to listen to Fr. Ripperger trott out his PIG and apply it to vaccines tainted with aborted fetal cells, you can listen to it here:

  18. ‘In Silence With God’ by Benedict Baur O.S.B. is a brilliant little treatise on the spiritual life. It is invaluable for one who aspires to active contemplation but who doesn’t have the time for The Dark Night or The Ascent of Mt. Carmel. As valuable for its succinct simplicity as it is for its breadth of topic, it serves as well as a particular examine and, originally printed in 1955, it is free of the fatuousness and silly platitudes of much of the “spiritual” writing of the past 50 years. Scepter publishes it for $15 or a used copy can be found on eBay for next to nothing. Much more valuable than the news.

  19. What do people think of Donald Hoffman's idea that there is no mind-independent physical reality and that it is 'consciousness all the way down', as discussed in this:, interview?

    1. Well for starters, he's wrong about his split-brain example. This has been debunked recently. Separating your brain halves doesn't separate you consciousness.

    2. A good start, by all means continue...

    3. Hi there, I would suggest that you read this review of Hoffman's theory which does a pretty good job of highlighting major flaws in it. One of the big ones, in my opinion, is that his theory rests on the notion that we are not wired for Truth but rather for fitness. Meaning that there is no reason to believe that what we get from our perceptions is true, only that it is what proves to make us more fit for our environment.

      But this is a self-defeating position since it relies on observation (and therefore the truth of those observations) to validate the results of the experiments.

      See here here:

    4. Hark, I have not looked at that but I will. For now, I think that kind of thing is just presumptive and implicitly monopolistic behind a coy curtain of epistemic shaming.

      "I know enough about reality to know that we can't know it."

      It should be a comic strip inside bubble gum wrappers.

      "I'm so objective about how we're all so subjective."

      "It's so absolute that everything's relative."

      "It's universally true that there's no true universals."

      It's the formula of posturing frauds, and the purpose is to ward off competing thinkers and competing ideas. The gushing of rags like Quanta is to protect the hegemony at all costs and pretend to be edgy and fielding all alternatives when they're obviously not.

      They'll get more dramatic and shrill with the fake epistemological humanity as they realize we're going to burn down their entire house of cards.

  20. considering art is the vessel for philosophy. what cultural forms do you deem worthy to represent your own. anime? tv series? reality tv? movies?

    1. Interpretive dance.

    2. There's such a thing as metaphysical art. It began in 1910 with Giorgio de Chirico's paintings. The style is more or less concerned with creating an atemporal, silent and mysterious atmosphere for everyday objects. It could go all obscure and surrealist but makes a point about not doing so.

      I often have a similar feeling reading about A/T metaphysics. After the centuries of reducionism, idealism and today's relativism, there's something to rediscovering these "invisible gears" of reality. Not in an obscurantist manner, but in a rational and indeed scientific one. As an artist in the making, I wonder what metaphysical art would be like if it had metaphysics as its subject.

      A little more off the hook, but a similar instance of rational and scientific methods applied to the supernatural, there's a project of collaborative writing going on for years now called the SCP Foundation. It is a collection of entries by this fictional organization, each devoted to objectively describing a supernatural "anomaly", and, if dangerous, how to contain it. You can find some of the most interesting sci-fi and experimental horror literature in there.

  21. Hello !

    I'm having troubles understanding how can anything be "self motion", and not "derived motion". In Feser's idea, hammer => hand => muscle, it seems that the muscle is doing self motion.
    But all the muscle does is to respond to nerve activation.
    And nerve activation is done in response to brain activity.
    And brain activity is done in response to outside stimulus.
    And outside stimulus can be either visual, auditive or tactile, which can be light particles (photons), sound vibrations (particles moving), or particle contact (touching/hitting). We're back at derived motion !

    Sure, the idea of a motor makes sense, but that presupposes that motion is not the default state of the universe ; though nothing we see is really motionless. So sure, it makes zero sense, unless we assume motion is already there. And given the principle of inertia and Newton's third law, I feel the argument is lost. :/

    Can someone explain that to me ?


    1. Trannel Kunnery
      "Brain activity is done in response to outside stimulus."

      Assuming is merely brain, if that were all it was, you couldn't know that fact itself, you could only be the eventuation of the outside stimulus. Knowledge and truth are just myths that you pantomine according to external stimuli. In order to know truth, you must assume you yourself are influence/stimulus independent, otherwise you have no real vantage point of awareness of your own, much less "judgment" about the state of affairs you're supposedly evaluating. A transcendental ego is a necessary assumption of self-aware thinking. Otherwise, you're just a passive cognitive relay in an electrical circuit.

      If you disagree then ask yourself what is that denial? What is it that's doing the analysis? What is it that's doing this thing called questioning?
      Or even what is interrogative cognition?

      You're a transcendental ego that's interacting with an external environment according to necessary assumptions of inquiry.

      And if you think that's an illusion, you're still assuming the reality of that illusion and yourself as a deluded cognizer. Yet even that has all the same problems and presumptions.

  22. Hello!

    I have a quick question about the Aristotelian Proof (as laid out in Feser's Five Proofs). Contrary to the thesis of existential inertia, the proponent of the Aristotelian Proof argues that a thing will, barring being conserved in being by the First Cause, go out of existence all on its own. My question is, does this not violate the causal principle underlying the Aristotelian Proof that says that the actualization of a potential necessarily requires an actualizer? The reason being that the claim against existential inertia seems to entail that a thing's potential for non-existence will be actualized without an actualizer.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. I think the answer lies in the distinction between sequential and hierarchical causes. If existence is an actualization that happens sequentially, then it seems like that implies that something didn't exist, and then poof, it exists, and keeps on existing.

      That seems to violate ex nihilo nihil fit (from nothing, nothing comes).

      What Feser is arguing, however, is that the relationship between an objects and its existence is hierarchical: Why does this object exist right now? Because its parts exist. Why do they exist? Because their parts exist, and so on and so on. Right here and now, there is a hierarchical causal chain. But this chain must terminate, and it terminates at existence itself. Existence exists because that's what existence means. And an object ultimately relies on existence in order to exist. Take existence away, the object no longer exists.

  23. I was wondering if there had been any response to the Unnecessary Science by Gunther Laird. Thanks in advance.

  24. What is the metaphysical status of a process in A/T? For example, water has a nature. It is a certain kind of thing. It has the potential to evaporate. But was is "evaporate"? Does "evaporate" have an essence? Does it belong to a certain class of metaphysical entities?

  25. I'm looking for any resource that discusses Thomist aesthetics. Recently I've found this post on the Ontological Investigations blog claiming that "By recognizing that beauty is an inherent aspect of being, Thomists can make sense of classical realistic art, an impressionist painting, and an abstract expressionist painting." The author entertains this view briefly, but mentions nothing for further reading.

    1. Aizen,

      Check out Etienne Gilson's The Arts of the Beautiful and Forms and Substances in the Arts.

    2. René,

      My thanks. These sound exactly what I'm looking for.

  26. Willy and the Poor Boys is CCR's best album.

  27. Hello Dr. Feser and other Thomists. I have a question towards the "Rationalist Proof", in particular with regards to the inference from necessary being to a purely actual being. Feser writes:

    "Why should we think of the necessary being as God? Consider first that, from the fact that it is necessary, it follows that it exists in a purely actual way, rather than having potentialities that need to be actualised. For if it had such potentialities, then its existence would be contingent on whatever actualises those potentialities, in which case it wouldn't really exist in a necessary way after all"

    I have a problem with this. From the fact that it cannot have potentialities that NEED to be actualised in order for it to exist, it simply doesn't follow that it doesn't have potentialities simpliciter. It could have potentialities which are simply irrelevant to its substantial existence, like accidental properties. None of those constitute potentialities that NEED to be actualised in order to exist. It seems to me that this inference simply misses the mark.

    And without the inference to purely actual being, none of the divine attributes follow.

    1. I'd like to see a response to this as well. I've seen this criticism on another web site and it seems strong to me. But I am probably missing something.

    2. Hey guys, see my reply to BenG below. I guess I didn't hit "reply".

  28. BenG,

    I sympathize with this question; Feser didn't make this point very clearly in Five Proofs. Specifically, the move from something that is a first principle to pure act was a little vague in a number of the chapters for precisely the sorts of reasons you have pointed out here.

    However, Thomas does have a way of answering this sort of question. Consider "The Thomistic proof" of chapter 4. Anything whose essence is its own existence cannot possibly have any potentialities whatsoever, because what it is is its own existence, and existence is act. In other words, what it is is its own act! Potentialities are incompatible with this.

    With respect to the first chapter on "The Aristotelian proof", Feser does attempt to address your question on pp. 66-67, however, in the course of his response, he does ask us to "suppose this first actualizer had some potentiality that had to be actualized in order for it to exist" (p. 66, emphasis my own), which doesn't get to the thrust of your question. As in the Thomistic proof, though, we can get to the idea of pure act consistently. The first principle does not need to have its own existence actualized, it just is its own existence (if it were not, its existence would have to be actualized). And when something just is its own existence, potentiality is by that very fact incompatible with it.

    I hope this helps!

    1. René, thanks for this response. It actually helped me to refer back to the text. I'm afraid I still don't quite see how pure actuality follows from the argument from change, though I totally understand what pure actually implies about the first cause.

      But what if something can be its own existence, and that existence has potentials unrelated to existence? It seems like the arguments from composition and from explanation do a better job of illustrating why the prime mover needs to be pure actuality. Is it possible to get to this notion within the framework of the first chapter's argument alone?

    2. Hey Hark,

      "But what if something can be its own existence, and that existence has potentials unrelated to existence?"

      This is a good question. I tried to address in my original response, but, I must admit, my reply was a bit heady. Perhaps this can't be avoided, as we are dealing with some high level abstractions.

      I'll break down the argument into stages, and perhaps you can tell me which part you're having trouble with?

      1. If something is its own existence, then it is its own act.

      2. Whatever is its own act cannot have any potentiality whatsoever. (As the what-it-is just is its own act. It is its own act.)

      3. Therefore, if something is its own existence, then it cannot have any potentiality whatsoever.

      From the wording of your question, I suspect premise (2) is the one that's giving you trouble. Consider the following analogy: If there were something that just was humanity, so that (somehow) its existence was humanity itself (ex., the Platonic form of humanity), that thing would be entirely incompatible with anything that was contrary to 'humanity' in any way. Note that this would follow for any aspect of humanity, not just its existence (as an abstract object). It would be entirely incompatible with, say, four-leggedness, or irrationality.

      Now, the same is true of something that is its own act. It would be entirely incompatible with anything contrary to its own actuality, such as potentiality. This extends beyond its existence to whatever other aspect of it. It cannot be potentiality anything (insert whatever accident), because it just is (its own) act. And what just is act cannot be potential in any way.

    3. Thank you René, that does help. I guess if there is some way in which something that is its own act but also has potentialities, the burden of proof would be on whomever makes such a claim to provide an example.

  29. Classical theism seems to me to be a cold, logical and austere system with a deity which is completely alien and other, and certainly not something that one could have a loving relationship with (in oppose to fearing or be in awe of say ). This contrasts markedly with theistic personalism, where it is easy to see how individuals can be attracted at a human level to a more anthropomorphic conception of deity.

    I was just wondering what motivates the spiritual practice of classical theists, and what emotions they feel towards God, as he is so alien and other, and not even a moral agent with moral obligations towards us. I just do not understand how anyone could deeply care about and be devoted to such a being, though I could certainly understand other emotions, such as fear, dread, reverance and awe.

    This is an honest , serious question. It must feel very differently being a classical theist Christian believer to a theistic personalist one, and I am curious to know just how.

    1. Anonymous,

      This is a common strawman of classical theism. Classical theism's God is personal in that He has intellect and will. So, it's not as though we're worshipping some kind of impersonal force.

      The fact that God is so transcendent and otherworldly, to me, increases rather than increases the level of fear, dread, reverence, and awe. This is a force of such mystery and power that I, a lowly mortal, am unworthy of. Yet, this awe-inspiring being has deigned to provide me with all the good things in my life and sustains my existence at all times. And He does this not because He has any moral obligation toward me, but because He loves me.

      Does that answer your question?

    2. MR GEOCON

      Yes thanks, I can understand where you are coming from there. I notice that you do not talk about having a personal loving relationship with God ( or Jesus ), but of experiencing fear, dread, reverence and awe. That is what I would have imagined, though it is still hard for me to understand your devotion, other than prudentially.

      Incidentally, I appreciate that the God of classical theism is personal, with will and intellect, but I know people who are very primerily that too, with little affect or empathy, and they are very difficult to relate to and care deeply about as they are so difficult to get to know.

    3. Anonymous,

      I misread what you said. For some reason, I thought you wrote that it was impossible to "feel fear, dread, reverence and awe" toward God and missed the point about a personal relationship. Yet, at the same time, I alluded to it when I wrote: "Yet, this awe-inspiring being has deigned to provide me with all the good things in my life and sustains my existence at all times. And He does this not because He has any moral obligation toward me, but because He loves me." The classical theist believes that God loves necessarily because His Will is identical with Goodness itself, and the essence of love is willing the good of another. Thus, God loves all creatures, and He shows this love for us by providing us with all the good things in our lives. We then are obligated to "love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength" (Deutoronmy 6:5) out of piety, similar to how we are obligated to love our parents or our country. But since this is God, our piety ought to be all the greater for it.

    4. The Christian God of classical theism is also the God of revelation. He reveals his inner triune nature through his only begotten son, who took on human nature. Without the incarnation we would never know that God is primarily love, mercy, truth, and justice.

    5. Anon

      Mysticism by definition needs an incomprehensible God and how can you not have a mystical relationship with Classic Theistic God?

      You could under yer own power have a natural intellectual contemplation and joy & delight and pleasure in thinking about the unknowable. That is a thing and a good starting place.

      One you start praying then you can patently wait for Graces that might come giving you illumination and later true Contemplation.

      OTOH it may never come granting you a Dark Night but there are mystical riches here to mine and spiritual treasure.

      Not relate to a Incomprehensible God? I dina want to relate I want to worship one!

      If I understand god like some shite wee Theistic personalist "deity" then to quote Hershel the Stargazer played by Duddley Moore
      "I've worshiped 2000 gods in my time and not one of them was worth the sacrifice of a field mouse".

      God is Infinite Divine Mystery and there will always be deeps to dive into and God will never be boring.

      A knowable god is boring....and in the words of Taylor Cladwell "Hell is pain and boredom and boredom is the most monstrous of pains".
      The physical torture become merciful relief.

      As for Jesus the Incarnate God is the living divine Analog made flesh to help explain the unexplained to watch Omnipotence grow tired and see omniscience be confused and contemplate even more mysteries and have someone to relate to on the divine level.

      So I don't see a down side to Classic Theism?
      It is that novel post enlightment crap that is useless.


    6. @Anonymous, I'm an ex-Catholic, so what I say may be off. But your question brings to mind John Henry Newman's discussions in his Essay on Development and elsewhere. That is, Newman pointed out that Protestants have a debased view of God and of the second person of the Trinity. Protestants, he said, deny that Mary is the Mother of GOD. So they accordingly have a debased view of Christ. They pray to Jesus as though Jesus is a pal. When Catholics want to talk to a pal, they talk to Mary, as I remember Newman saying. When they address God and/or Christ as God, they address a more "dread" figure, if I can speak of the emotional impact of thinking of God's transcendence as opposed to the BVM's kinship to finite humans. This is not to deny the incarnation! it is to extol it, as Newman thought Protestants fail to do.

      I may be getting this wrong, but if I remember rightly, my memories may suggest to you that your prayer life can be enhanced if you pray to God as GOD and address petitions to Mary as Mary.

      [corrections welcome]

    7. Ficino,

      I find nothing wrong with this at face value & you know me. If I found something wrong you would hear about it.:D LOL!

      Cheers buddy no corrections.

    8. Ficino4ml

      Just curious, but why are you no longer a Catholic? What is your perspective now, and upon what did leaving the RC church turn?

    9. Son of Ya'Kov, you surely don't worship a "philosophers' god"? Our God makes us, talks to us, he writes on walls, he teaches us the Our Father. Whatever Aristotle thought about the Prime Mover, his ideas excluded the knowledge the Church brings, that does move people to worship God, something the pagan philosophers didn't do.

      As Dr. Feser has said, theistic personalism isn't a very good term. There is too much confusion, what with the great tendency today to deny the personality if God. In any case, you are unlikely to meet many people whose hobby is not philosophy declaring "I deny the simplicity of God".

      I doubt whether many people, instructed or otherwise, think God is understandable or a person like them. Nevertheless, it is God who wants us to approach him in a way no philosopher ever did.

    10. @ Anonymous: I shall make a stab at answering your question if you will make a profile and identify yourself by a stable screen name. There are too many "Anonymi" on here!

      BTW re what I wrote above: of course, John Henry Newman did not use the word, "pal," lol.

    11. @Miguel Cervantes,

      There are plenty of simple people out there who think that God is an invisible old man with a beard who lives in the clouds.

    12. Miguel Cevabtes

      The God of the Philosophers is the same God as the God of Abraham. The God of the Philosophers is YHWH the God of the Jews and Christians and the Catholic Church.

      I am by the Grace of God a Catholic Christian dear sir.

    13. @Ficino

      I have been doing some reading on analogy and univocality and the objections to analogy.

      When I get around to it I might butt into a conversation you are having with Reasonable over at the other blog.


  30. For some time I have looked through traditional Church teaching on the death penalty vs modern formulations by the latest Popes, and one of the sticking point differences, at least in emphasis, is the shift from retributive justice to rehabilitative/ restorative justice. Even though I'm not as anti-Francis as a lot of people here are and tend to agree with him a good bit, I find this shift to be without much thought or premature, and it thus troubles me.

    On one hand, when I try to understand the rationale for retribution, I don't personally see much of one. At the least, I do not currently understand why it is the case that people must be given a "punishment", or why it is -in se- morally good to punish (as in, you do something meant to make them suffer) when they do something bad, on the basis of them merely having done the bad thing. This without reference to "teaching a lesson" or paying back what you stole, etc (all aspects that seem to be explained by restorative justice). When I look up defenses of "retribution" or "retributive justice," moreover, a lot of these tend to be more utilitarian (i.e., deterrence).

    But the reason I am having trouble is that even today, we tend to speak of discipline in general, and not just the DP, in a way that isn't quite this. Recent ideas of discipline, for instance, refuse the idea of punishment and replace it with "consequences." The idea is that a child reaps what he sows in a way that is more closely tied with action. I was raised with this... my parents even today deny that they "punished" me; instead, through my own choices, I experienced the consequences of my actions. People today tend to use this reasoning for Hell as well when they say that it isn't God who inflicts on us the punishment of Hell, but rather that we choose, through unrepentant mortal sin, eternal separation from God. So Hell is the consequence of our own actions, and God is simply respecting our free will.

    These explanations seem satisfying at first to someone with my own preconceived schema, but something seems a bit "off" about them, like the explanations are largely products of their times or a bit of wordplay. Traditional defenses for the DP that I have seen also include the fact that retribution is scriptural or Church teaching, but even those who wrote the scriptures should have some rationale for it that is now lost on me, having been raised in the current context. It isn't enough for me simply to point to passages assuming some notion of retribution... I'd like to know if there is some more rigorous breakdown of why retribution -in itself- is good. Thanks!

    1. Who here is anti-Francis? Criticizing the man isn't really being anti. If hypothetically my Father where to make a wee fool of himself (not that he would) in public ye can bet either I or my brothers would try to stop him.

      None of my brothers or I are anti our Father. Who says we are will deal with three angry Scotts.

      But we are nor anti-Francis.

      Apart from the Sedes bugger them.


    2. One can only agree. There's an outbreak of Protestantism in the Church lately, much of it in some conservative circles which have inexplicably just discovered the shortcomings that apply particularly to Popes after Vatican II. I think it's due mainly to the politics of this Pope. Doctrinal issues are brought up, rightly or wrongly, but the urge to call him the Antichrist, or his "prophet" (Vigano) is purely political in origin. Luther would have been proud.

  31. Has anyone here read any books on the philosophy of history? This is one topic that I'm really interested in and I've read a number of books on the topic and would like to learn more about it.

    If anyone hasn't read any books on the topic and wants to read some, here are four books I would recommend starting with:

    1. "History and Historians: A Historiographical Introduction" by Mark T. Gilderhus (7th edition).
    2. "Shapes of Philosophical History" by Frank E. Manuel
    3. "The Idea of History" by R. G. Collingwood
    4. "The Riddle of History: The Great Speculators from Vico to Freud" by Bruce Mazlish

    All of the books mentioned go through their subject historically, from earliest to latest.

    I've also read one book on the philosophy of history by Jacques Maritain called "On the Philosophy of History".

    Are there any Catholic philosophers of history you could recommend reading? and are there any Thomist philosophers of history you could recommend?

  32. this is a question that I've had for some time: why we can't allow an infinite regress in cosmological arguments?

    I ventured an answer, that starts with 2 assumptions:

    1. The direction of causality goes upwards (from the deeper levels of reality to our observed levels)

    2. You can count from zero towards negative infinity but not the other way around.

    Some cosmological arguments start with a factual observation (i.e. change is a feature of the world) That observation would be step zero: it's where we are right now, and we got here somehow. By assumption 1, we got here (step zero) by escalating from some lower step (step -X). Since by assumption 2 we could not have gotten to step zero coming from negative infinity, then there must be a starting point. And that starting point is the deepest level of reality (the unmoved mover, the absolutely simple, the necessary being, etc.)

    Does this make sense?

    1. whoops I forgot to put my name

  33. Since this is an open thread, here's another topic. What exactly is "being"?
    Plato in the Sophist has the Stranger say that "being" is dynamis, i.e. the capacity to act or be acted on. If something "is," it can act or be acted on. This is a major step in Western philosophy, BTW, for it accords "being" to bodies as well as to intelligibles.

    Quine famously said that to exist is to be a value of a bound variable. So here we have a definition different from Plato's, and arguably, we have a different definiendum, since Quine is talking about "existence" - and one can argue that "being" has a wider extension or intension than "existence." I.e. that more things have "being" than "exist" or that "being" has a wider range of meaning than "existence."

    And we all know that Aristotle said that "being is said in many ways."

    What exactly is the A-T position on "being"? What IS it? Does "esse" have a definition?

    And second, in A-T, is "being" not equivalent to "existence"?

    Thanks, f.

    1. Norris Clarke is good on this. Since Being doesn't in itself have an essence, (it is distinct from it) it cannot be defined the way a dog or tree can. However, it can still meaningfully be described.

      "Being" is a kind of dynamic presence in the now, such that anything that has being is active and presenting themselves to other beings. It can also be called the centre of acting and being acted on, since action is essential to being.

      And no, on A-T "being" is not distinct from "existence".

    2. Existence and essence as special cases of the mor fundamental theory of act and potency.Same for form and matter.

    3. I like this definition of being in De Potentia:

      Here is the objection:

      "6. Being to which no addition can be made is being common to all things. Now if God is his own being no additions can be made to his being; and then his being will be common to all. Consequently he can be predicated of everything, and will enter into the composition of everything: which is heretical and contrary to the statement of the Philosopher who says (De Causis, prop. xx) that the first cause rules all things without being mingled with them."

      Here is Aquinas's response:

      "Reply to the Sixth Objection. Being to which no addition is made is universal being, though the possibility of addition thereto is not incompatible with the notion of universal being: whereas the divine being is being to which no addition can be made and this enters into the very notion of the divine being: wherefore the divine being is not universal being. Thus by adding the difference rational to animal in general we do not add anything to the notion of animal in general: and yet it is not incompatible with the idea of animal in general that an addition to it be possible: for this enters into the notion of irrational animal which is a species of animal."

      So Aquinas states divinum esse non est esse commune. So common esse is just undiferentiated esse capable of receiving diferentiation.

    4. Another interesting passage from the Summa:

      "Objection 1. It seems that essence and existence are not the same in God. For if it be so, then the divine being has nothing added to it. Now being to which no addition is made is universal being which is predicated of all things. Therefore it follows that God is being in general which can be predicated of everything. But this is false: "For men gave the incommunicable name to stones and wood" (Wisdom 14:21). Therefore God's existence is not His essence."

      "Reply to Objection 1. A thing that has nothing added to it can be of two kinds. Either its essence precludes any addition; thus, for example, it is of the essence of an irrational animal to be without reason. Or we may understand a thing to have nothing added to it, inasmuch as its essence does not require that anything should be added to it; thus the genus animal is without reason, because it is not of the essence of animal in general to have reason; but neither is it to lack reason. And so the divine being has nothing added to it in the first sense; whereas universal being has nothing added to it in the second sense."

    5. @ Mark: "dynamic presence in the now" as you spell it out sounds consistent with what I cited from Plato's Sophist, that ousia is dynamis or it's to have dynamis (Plato isn't always rigorous about "is F" vs "has F").

      I remember from discussions with Dennis Bonnette on SN that Bonnette gave "existence" a narrower range than "being." I think he chided me at one point for equating the two.

    6. @Daniel: thanks for the quotations. In them, however, I do not detect a definition of "being"/"esse." Rather, I see a distinction made between divine being and universal being. "Being" remains undefined, as far as I can tell.

    7. Being is analogical, not univocal. I was trying to get at this by making distinctions between the definition of divine being and common being. So if you want a univocal definition of being, you have to specify what type of being you want a definition for.

    8. @Daniel: in Aristotle, there is a focal meaning of "being", and it dovetails with the being of a substance. When he says, "being is said in many ways," the "other ways" are being as accidents of a substance.

      Above you say that "common esse is just undiferentiated esse capable of receiving diferentiation." Can you supply a definition of "esse" that will be operative in what you wrote? Tx

    9. @Ficino

      In case you don't see this above.

      I have been doing some intense reading on analogy and univocality and the objections to analogy.

      When I get around to it I might butt into a conversation you are having with Reasonable over at the other blog.


  34. I see how aristotelian epistemology can explain our knowledge of universals like color, species, shapes etc for particulars of these are given to the senses. But how can we abstract from sense experience concepts like time, space, substance, the self(or I), casuality etc?

    It seems that these are pressuposed before experience can even make sense. If that is the case, Aristotle active intelect can't explain our knowledge and his epistemology fails like english empiricism does.

    1. Cara, te recomendo a ler o Aristotle's Revenge do Ed. Lá você vai encontrar muitas respostas que você tem dúvidas. Se me permite dizer, o próprio conceito de ato e potência tem uma importância fundamental sobre a sua pergunta, principalmente no tocante ao tempo, então eu recomendo você focar mais nos conceitos metafísicos de Aristóteles.

      Outro livro muito bom é o do David Oderberg, Real Essentialism. Este livro é um pouco difícil de se familiarizar - ainda mais pela linguagem dele, no tocante ha algumas expressões.

      E só pra responder, de forma rápida, ao seu paragrafo final: a epistemologia não comete uma falácia de petittio principii desse jeito. Primeiro que ninguém ia cometer erros tão latentes desse jeito; e segundo pela forma de como o argumento se desenvolveu, nada desses "pressupostos" seguem (neste caso recomendo o Scholastic's Metaphysics, leia com bastante atenção os capítulos 1, 3 e 4).

      Alias, é bom ver um brasileiro por aqui! Deus te abençoe e que você consiga encontrar o que esta procurando.

    2. Valeus pelas dicas e que o Senhor lhe abençoe também! Reconheço que tenho que aprender bastante sobre o assunto ainda, mas ainda ia gostar de ver o pessoal aqui comentar o assunto, até porque mesmo alguns católicos(como agostinianos) criticam os tomistas, então é uma questão válida.

      And gringos, you guys can help too! i know that some people here are aware of the objections made by people like Kant to tabula rasa views, it is a interesting subject.

  35. Can somebody tell me why buddhists believe in such nonsense?

  36. Thank you all for your responses to my question about how classical theists relate on a personal level to a completely other and trancendent God ( April 19, 3.11PM ).

    It must really disconcert and frustrate you that the great majority of ordinary Christian believers are theistic personalists, and that this applies to Catholics too (in Europe these are more and more just 'cultural catholics' who pick and mix their practices and beliefs).

    As a subsidiary question, I would like to ask if it matters very much that classical theism is the provence of intellectuals, as what really matters ( according to my protestant friends ) is 'mere Christianity' and a saving relationship with Jesus. Indeed, being too philosophical and rigorous, and too enthusiastic in attacking theistic personalism, may well undermine your apologetic efforts. Reading The Gospels , such nuances and distinctions were clearly not the overriding concern of Jesus .

    What do you all think?

    1. The claim that the vast majority of Christians (and even Catholics) are theistic personalists has been repeatedly made around here recently, but I wonder, how is it that you know this to be the case? If one refuses to grant the erroneous supposition that one cannot enter into a loving relationship with God as described in classical theism, it should no longer be possible to conclude that the people who pursue such a relationship are theistic personalists. And provided one realises that classical theism very much admits analogous language about God, to say nothing of mere metaphors, I think it is clear that it is not possible to argue that people are theistic personalists based on their employment of such language.

      So, what *is* this claim based upon? It's not like we have regular censuses with philosophically exact questionnaire schemata. Again, articulating dogma in philosophical language is a special skill and an activity traditionally largely reserved for the clergy (who are supposed to regulate the diet of the laity in terms of milk and meat), so should we expect ordinary lay people to be particularly good at this, if philosophy is not their special interest? Failure to articulate something fairly abstract should not be taken for non-belief in it.

      Given that this question has been recently discussed in connexion with the problem of evil, I have to mention the fact that most believers at the very least do not hold it to be a insoluble one, if at all a problem, and this can be taken as evidence against them being personalists, can it not?

      Among orthodox Catholics, even today, the basic element of their religious practice is the weekly Mass, which is still understood to be a public sacrifice. If you agree with me that such an understanding - also doctrinally shared by the Orthodox, say, but largely rejected by the Protestants - does not sit too well with theistic personalism, wouldn't the weekly Mass commitment, at least among the orthodox faithful, testify against the supposition of personalism?

      As regards you latter question, I think it would be pertinent to note that the Gospel famously notes the salvific and liberating nature of truth, and historically, from the beginning, this concern gave rise to some fairly abstract, public and binding dogmatic definitions, which were, again, largely meant for the clergy, to guide them as they themselves guided their flocks. If one agrees that true doctrine is the necessary condition for living a Christian life, philosophical sophistication and rigour appear to be virtues rather than vices, and concern public orthodoxy, even if there are different dispositions among the people professing the adherence to the same orthodoxy.

      As to the concerns of Our Lord and His concerns as recorded in the Gospel, I'd argue that He was fairly evidently not unconcerned with orthodoxy and revealed truth (as contained in the Law and the prophets, at the time of the Incarnation) and so to the extent our argument with the personalists concerns these, I have no doubt He'd relate. As the Hebrews were not overly concerned with technical philosophy, nor used its language in their theology, it is not at all surprising that Our Lord did not concern Himself with such matters; however, as the Church sought to fulfil the Great Comission, she could not rely on the fruits of God's peculiar pedagogy of the Hebrews when it came to the Gentiles, hence the use of philosophy and its categories and terms. However, it would be a mistake, for reasons adducced above, to suppose that prior to this development the Hebrews (and later Christians) were theistic personalists; in addition, such a claim would be grossly anachronistic, as theistic personalism is arguably a fairly recent development.

    2. Thomas Gavisus

      Thank you. Interesting.

      I must admit that I have no sociological research evidence to substantiate my claim that the great majority of Christians are theistic personalists, I just infer this from my observations of them and interactions with them, though that has largly been in the UK and other parts of Europe. They relate to God (and Jesus especially ) as though he was their super powered buddy in the sky, and would react strongly against the notion that he is not a moral agent for example, hence the perceived need for, and great popularity of, theodicies. I have taught in Catholic schools in England, and I see this among many ordinary Catholics too(who in addition often do not believe in a literal 'real presence' and use artificial birth control - though they do not tell the priest, only their trusted neighbourhood atheist! ).

    3. There is a reason I had to add the qualification of "orthodox" when I mentioned Catholics. It seems to me that great numbers of nominally Christian individuals seem to actually only believe in what had been termed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Given the ridiculously low church attendance, frequently non-existent or minimal religious instruction and the retreat of confessional Christianity from the public forum, it doesn't surprise me in the least that claims of religious identity fail to correspond to actual belief.

      Theistic personalism seems to correspond rather well to conception of divinity more proper to a child: it would seem (I am an adult convert, so I can't relate) that initially a small child *can* only think of God as Super-Dad. In a traditional Catholic context, such a conception would perforce develop through participation in cult and instruction: I genuinely believe it would be difficult for the attitude you describe to survive contact with traditional Catholic liturgy and even minimal catechetical instruction (see, e.g. the Penny Catechism). Unfortunately, many in the West seem to opt out of religious practice precisely at the point of time when this development is supposed to take place, and so Confirmation, as the joke goes, becomes "graduation from Church". Additional factors, such as the liturgical reform of 70s, with its arguably more anthropocentric liturgy, and the movement away from the "manualist" tradition of Neo-Scholasticism in Catholic education, not to mention widespread doctrinal and moral dissent (e.g. on the matter of contraception) would seem to further hinder this development.

      And all of this is, of course, disconcerting and frustrating. It is of consoling, them, that most Catholics do not, in fact, live in the affluent West.

    4. Thomas Gavisus

      But is it not the case that supposed Catholics in the developing world have very syncretic beliefs and practices, amalgamating aspects of Christianity with traditional religions? Further, the Christian elements may be distorted in an idolatrous manner, such as the effective worship of Mary.

      I do not say this with any hint of triumphalism , just note it in passing, but Roman Catholicism seems to be in very bad shape. Apart from the facts already noted, I believe that it is the case that you are bleeding members, have lost influence upon the young and cannot recruit anywhere near enough priests. Now I appreciate that truth does not track popularity, but are you sure that all this has absolutely nothing to so with your cold and austere image and practices? Rather than retreating into pre-Vat II mode as some would advise, shouldn't you be liberalising and opening up a bit? Allowing your clergy to marry would be a good start.

    5. What I despise about Theistic Personalism is if you think real hard about it then Theistic Personalism more or less renders the Incarnation hopelessly redundant and unremarkable.

      If what one calls "god" is already a comprehensible disembodied invisible but essentially human mind without limits plus magical powers then the Incarnation is relatively redundant.

      If God is in essence incomprehensible and God's is "personal" because He merely has intellect and will analogous to human intellect and will then when God the Word becomes incarnate taking flesh from Our Lady and becomes the God Man that is very significant and He becomes the Living Divine Analog for us.

      Our Lord Jesus Christ shows us what incomprehensible God is like. God as God must remain Mystery to be loved and only His Grace can help us rise above a mere natural intellective contemplation of God. The later is a good opening movie in one's prayer life but without Grace it you really can't have a relationship with God.

      The God of Abraham and Aquinas is the only True God. The theistic personalist "god" or as I like to call the foul thing Sky Mega Cosmic Gandalf the White is a conception of god that belongs to a child or teenager at best as you said Sir Gravis.

      I can't love a Theistic Personalist "god" if anything I would reasonably develop Richard Dawkins view of "god" toward such an entity.

      But the True God one cannot coherently disbelieve in him via the reasons one can't put their faith in a Theistic Personalist "god". Not without incoherence.


  37. What is the greater good since most people end up in hell for eternity

    1. Finding out what the truth is.

      Questions about what the good is seem to assume it's a good thing to know what it is.

      Not sure what people ending up in hell has to do with it, but you're welcome to show why it implies anything about the good.

  38. I liked this description of faith versus science (from the Just Thomism blog recently):

    Generically, faith is an intellectual assent, or a way in which an intellect takes something as true.

    In faith, the something taken as true is the knowledge of a higher intellect than our own. Faith is opposed to science, which is knowledge equal to some intellect. My faith is thus my assent to a science higher than my own.

    It is irrational to take my science as more certain than my faith since this is to prefer the lower form of knowledge to the higher; it is irrational to prefer science to faith for the same reason.

    The natural stance of human beings is faith to what is higher, science to what is equal. We know what to believe in by the same means we know what to have science of. We have faith in those is a better position to know than ourselves and knowledge of what we know in ourselves. Without faith nothing above us can come to be known. To limit ourselves to science without faith is to rule out any ascent to higher levels of understanding.

    The supernatural virtue of faith is our assent to the First Truth, or the highest truth known to the highest intellect, namely truth as known to the divine intellect that can neither deceive nor be deceived.