Friday, May 14, 2021

Intellectuals in hell


It is by virtue of our rational or intellectual powers that we are made in God’s image and have a dignity nothing else in the material world possesses.  As Aquinas writes:

Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. vi, 12): “Man's excellence consists in the fact that God made him to His own image by giving him an intellectual soul, which raises him above the beasts of the field.” Therefore things without intellect are not made to God's image…  It is clear, therefore, that intellectual creatures alone, properly speaking, are made to God's image.  (Summa Theologiae I.93.2)

And again, a couple of articles later: “Man is said to be the image of God by reason of his intellectual nature” (Summa Theologiae I.93.4).

You might at first think, then, that intellectuals in the modern sense of the term would be the most Godlike of human beings, and the most likely to achieve salvation.  Not so.  Indeed, if anything, scripture (with which, naturally, Aquinas agrees) implies the opposite.  We read, for example:

For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart” … God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.  (1 Corinthians 1:19, 27)

and:

I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes. (Matthew 11:25)

Moreover, angels, being pure intellects entirely independent of matter, are in that respect even more like God than we are, and certainly more intelligent.  And yet the greatest of these angelic intellects, Lucifer, fell from grace and took many other angels with him.   Obviously, then, those of very great intellect can be and often are lost, whereas those of weak intellects can be and often are saved.  To quote I, Claudius: “Evidently, quality of wits is more important than quantity.”

But what exactly makes for quality of wits in this context?  Recall first the Thomistic thesis that will follows upon intellect, so that anything with an intellect also has a will.  Recall too that, like everything else in nature, the intellect and will have final causes that determine what makes for a good or bad specimen of the kind.  The intellect is naturally directed toward knowledge of truth, and the will is naturally directed toward pursuit of what is good.  But truths and goods are hierarchical, with some more important than others.  A good intellect is one focused on the highest of truths and a good will is one set on the highest of goods.  Naturally, then, an intellect is deficient to the extent that it is in error or its attention is distracted by lesser truths, and a will is deficient to the extent that it fails to pursue what is good or aims at what is in fact evil.

With that in mind, let’s look at what Aquinas immediately goes on to say in the passage from Summa Theologiae I.93.4 quoted above:

Since man is said to be the image of God by reason of his intellectual nature, he is the most perfectly like God according to that in which he can best imitate God in his intellectual nature.  Now the intellectual nature imitates God chiefly in this, that God understands and loves Himself.  Wherefore we see that the image of God is in man in three ways.

First, inasmuch as man possesses a natural aptitude for understanding and loving God; and this aptitude consists in the very nature of the mind, which is common to all men.

Secondly, inasmuch as man actually and habitually knows and loves God, though imperfectly; and this image consists in the conformity of grace.

Thirdly, inasmuch as man knows and loves God perfectly; and this image consists in the likeness of glory. Wherefore on the words, “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us” (Psalm 4:7), the gloss distinguishes a threefold image of “creation,” of “re-creation,” and of “likeness.” The first is found in all men, the second only in the just, the third only in the blessed.

End quote.  Our intellectual nature is fulfilled, then, in knowing and loving God above all things.  For since God is the First Cause and thus ultimate explanation of all things, only knowledge of God can fulfill the intellect, and since he is the Last End or highest good, only he can satisfy the will.  Hence, to the extent that an intellect or will is directed away from the true or the good, and especially to the extent that they are directed away from God, they are corrupt and directed away from salvation.

But how could that happen in an intellect that is powerful?  How could it fall into such grave error?  The fundamental way it can happen is if the will is misdirected.  For when that occurs, an intellect is less likely to arrive at truth, and likely instead to seek out rationalizations for the evil it has fallen in love with.  This is one reason why intellectuals may actually be more likely to be damned than less intelligent people.  Having more powerful intellects, they are better able to spin clever sophistries by which they can blind themselves to the truth. 

Demonstrating things like God’s existence or the natural law foundations of traditional morality is not, after all, that hard.  What is difficult is cutting through the enormous tangle of sophistries by which modern thinkers have obscured our view of what was clear enough to intellects like those of Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus and the like.  You have to deny vast swaths of common sense (concerning matters like causality and teleology, for example) in order to get skepticism about these things off the ground.  Less intelligent and well-educated people find it harder to do that, which is why they are less likely to reject traditional morality and religion.  It takes a high degree of intelligence to develop narratives and theories that not only defy common sense, but make it seem reasonable to do so.

Powerful intellects are much less likely to become corrupted to the extent that their view of things falls within what is sometimes called the Ur-Platonist family of philosophical positions.  And they are very likely to become corrupted to the extent that they depart from this family – say, by being drawn to materialism, or mechanism, or nominalism, or relativism, or skepticism.  Or worse, to several or all of these.  Now, a great many modern intellects have fallen into precisely these errors.  Moreover, these errors have in turn led them into grave sexual immorality, and as Plato and Aquinas warn us, disordered sexuality has of all vices the greatest tendency to darken the intellect.  Sophistry and rationalization lead to the indulgence of disordered desire, which leads to further and ever more bizarre rationalizations, which leads in turn to further and even deeper disorders of desire, and so on, in a kind of death spiral of the soul.  Lost in sensuality, a powerful intellect can then become lost in theory, unable to see beyond it to reality and no longer wanting to.  This is why St. Paul, in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, links the intellectual errors of the pagans to their sexual depravity.  And we are seeing the same sort of thing all around us at the present time, with unparalleled depravity rationalized by sophistries so transparent and laughable that few would have been fooled by them for a moment as recently as a decade or two ago. 

An old proverb has it that “the corruption of the best is the worst.”  Hence Plato regarded the monarchy of the Platonic Philosopher-King as the best form of government, but tyranny, which is the corruption of monarchy, as the worst form.  Now, the intellect is, as it were, the monarch of the soul.  When the intellect is guided by sound principles, the soul is governed in a way analogous to rule by a Philosopher-King.  But when the intellect is in thrall to sophistries and rationalizations of disordered desire, it governs the soul like a tyrant, and destroys it as surely as a tyrant destroys a polity.

But though intellectuals can be tempted by sins of the flesh like anyone else, that isn’t really their Achilles’ heel qua intellectuals.  You need to look elsewhere among the Seven Deadly Sins for that.  And once again, the example of the angels is instructive.  Of their fall, Aquinas writes:

But there can be no sin when anyone is incited to good of the spiritual order; unless in such affection the rule of the superior be not kept.  Such is precisely the sin of pride – not to be subject to a superior when subjection is due.  Consequently the first sin of the angel can be none other than pride.

Yet, as a consequence, it was possible for envy also to be in them, since for the appetite to tend to the desire of something involves on its part resistance to anything contrary.  Now the envious man repines over the good possessed by another, inasmuch as he deems his neighbor's good to be a hindrance to his own.  But another's good could not be deemed a hindrance to the good coveted by the wicked angel, except inasmuch as he coveted a singular excellence, which would cease to be singular because of the excellence of some other.  So, after the sin of pride, there followed the evil of envy in the sinning angel, whereby he grieved over man's good, and also over the Divine excellence, according as against the devil's will God makes use of man for the Divine glory.  (Summa Theologiae I.63.2)

The intellect is the highest part of our nature.  It is not surprising, then, that those with especially powerful intellects would see themselves as the highest human beings, and be strongly tempted to the sin of pride.  This is part of what makes the sophistries of modern philosophy, modern politics, and modern culture in general so extremely attractive to intellectuals.  For these ideas are often both difficult to understand and contrary to common sense – and, for these reasons, contrary to what the average person believes.  To accept these sophistries is, accordingly, a way to reinforce one’s sense of superiority over the mass of mankind.  The prideful intellect is tempted by the thought that if hoi polloi believe it, then it must be wrong.

To accept instead views that uphold common sense and the opinions of the average person (as, in their different ways, Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics and conservative political philosophy tend to do) would be to credit the opinions of unsophisticated people in a way that makes it harder for the intellectual to feel superior to them.  And this, I would suggest, is the deep reason why modern intellectuals tend to have the political biases they do.

Now, the sin of envy, as Aquinas indicates, is the sequel to this sin of pride.  Why are so many intellectuals seemingly hell-bent on trying to shatter ordinary people’s belief in God, free will, morality, and the like?  Here’s one possible reason.  People who believe in these things tend to be happier than those who do not.  If you are someone who sees yourself as superior to such people, you are bound to be tempted to resent their happiness and to be pleased at the thought of destroying what you take to be the illusions that generate it.  And being pained at the good of another so that one desires to see it destroyed is envy.

Hence, it is difficult for an intellectual to enter the kingdom of heaven for the same reason it is difficult for a rich man to enter.  It has nothing to do with intellect or riches being bad in themselves.  On the contrary, they are good.  Rather, it has to do with the strong temptations to which these good things give rise – prideful self-sufficiency and contempt for those who do not have the same gifts (whether smarts or money). 

Those who fail to repent of such sins are doomed forever to be schooled in the error of their ways.  But in this school there are no final exams, no graduation, and no degrees.  Though there is most certainly tenure.

331 comments:

  1. Thanks Ed. You’ve always made me feel like a moron and now I want to be one, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get it. You want to be stupid so ye dina go to Hell. Well stupid people can go to Hell (indeed can't we say ultimately all who wind up there choose to be stupid in a maximal way?)and the intelligent can be saved in spite of their vanities over being blessed with a keen intellect. It is all Divine Grace in the end. Bless you sir.

      Delete
    2. Ed, this morning I was rereading William Alston's A Sensible Metaphysicalism. In it, he defends the very basic position which holds that "large stretches of reality do not depend on our conceptual and theoretical choices for existing and being what they are."
      This modest proposition does not even exclude Berkeley's idealism; it only excludes pretty radical positions that no non-intellectual would come up with.
      At one point, he writes, "All of us, before we encounter clever antirealist arguments, unhesitatingly ascribe independent existence to what we encounter in the world. This is as deeply rooted as any conviction of common sense. It is to be give up only if there are strong reasons against it." Alston then shows that not only are there not strong reasons against realism but that the anti-realist position contradicts itself.
      On the topic of pride, it is Sam's humility that enables him to reject the One Ring in Lord of the Rings.

      Delete
    3. Hi Tim, I haven't read that Alston book -- I'll have to check it out.

      Delete
    4. Hi Ed. It is less than 70 pages and easy to read; it is his Aquinas lectures. He defends both lower levels of physical entities and common sense objects like daffodils and emus as being real, but argues that things like "grueness" (Nelson Goodman) or "snowdiscall" (Ernest Sosa's notion in "Existential Relativity") do depend for their reality on a theory or description of the world. One interesting aspect is his defense of certain socially constructed objects such as ten dollar bills as being on the real side of the ledger. His discussion of artifacts is also interesting.

      Delete
    5. Son of Ya'kov 8.54pm

      Obviously, dumb people can go to heaven on your world view, and intellectually brilliant ones to hell, but surely it is an advantage to be born stupid as it reduces the risk of a bad outcome, all other factors being held equal. After all, as Feser tells us, stupid people simply assimilate the common sense conservatism and morality found about them, but clever people are apt to analyse all this and ( God forbid ) challange it. Mmmm, now that is a surprise!

      So do you not agree then that all else being equal it is far better to be dumb , and we ought to pray to God that our kids are stupid too?

      Delete
    6. Son of Ya'kov

      In my post at 12.33PM above I of course meant to start off by saying that in your world view intelligent people can go to heaven, and dumb ones to hell, but surely it is an advantage to be born stupid........NOT the other way around.

      This is a serious question, and everyone reading this ( including those dropping by for the first and maybe only time ) will know what to conclude if it defeats your ability to provide a reasonable answer.

      Delete
    7. @Unknown and Anon,

      It is God who decides what talents and abilities a person will have. For some people, being stupid may actually be a grace as their arrogance or other tendencies might drive them into damnation if they were more intelligent, but that isn't necessarily true for everyone. Our position doesn't mean that it is always better to be born stupid, only that it is sometimes an advantage. And no, despite Unknown's insinuation, this is not some kind of insidious plot to keep the sheep dim and controllable. You may idolise the rebel and "free-thinker", but we do not.

      Delete
    8. Cantus

      I appreciate that on your view it is not always better to be born stupid, but does it tend to be the case? If stupid people tend to unthinkingly assimilate your religion and conservatism, whereas clever ones are at risk of thinking and escaping from them, why would you not hope for the former in your children?

      Delete
    9. First off, the way you've framed that ("actually thinking will have you wake up to see that religion is wrong") is highly slanted and indeed offensive, so I'll ask you to tone that down, if you don't mind. Second, to answer your actual question, I view it as at least foolish and possibly impious to "hope for" my children to be smart, or strong, or stupid, or swift, or to possess any particular traits. Foolish, because I can't affect that in any case, and it would amount to worrying over nothing. Possibly impious, because it might imply a lack of trust in God's Providence ("I don't trust that the talents or lack thereof that God has given me or my children are enough for me") or a rebellion against His Will (ie, "I don't care what God is calling me to, I want to do my own thing!" or somesuch. I appreciate that you do not share my beliefs, but consider that this attitude is entirely rational from the point of view of someone who believes in the Catholic faith. This is somewhat related to one of my problems with the idea of genetic engineering, which is often floated as a way to gain more power over our own bodies so that we will subject even our own flesh to our whims.

      Delete
    10. Cantus

      I have no intention of toning anything down to accommodate your snowflake sensibilities. I would consider that disrespectful to you.

      Your attitude to the traits of your future offspring seems unnatural and inhuman to me. It is perfectly natural for prospective parents to desire and hope for the best in their kids, and that includes a set of mental and physical traits which serves them well in life. That does not mean that a child will not be loved if things do not turn out well, but what kind of parent is neutral with respect to if their future offspring is neurologically impaired or has a chromasomal abnormality for example? Of course, if an issue was discovered during gestation and could be rectified biochemically or by surgery your trust in and reverance for God's providence would evaporate pretty quickly and you would sanction medical treatment. What is the difference in principle then between intervening surgically to correct a heart valve abnormality in the foetus say, and using genetic techniqies to prevent low intelligence ( if that was possible )? Would not both be to reject God 's providence? In fact, how can medicine be practiced at all without ( on your view ) sticking two fingers up to God's providence? If you reply that His providence includes our science and technolohy, well that would be the case with genetic interventions too, so why are you so sqeamish about the latter?

      We do not know the limits of what is possible yet, but I would not be surprised if humanity is radically transformed over the next centuary through a combination of genetic engineering and cybernetics. In fact, very long term we may diverge into populations which can no longer interbreed, not that this would prevent sexual relations beteeen the different speciations. No doubt the vestige of the RCC that exists then will have plenty to say about it, but I am sure that it will be ignored, and that loving inter-species relationships will flourish.

      By the way, I have often wondered if you folk shield your kids from Startrek, because in that universe there are plenty of interspecies relationships, and not all 'races' can generate offspring together. Such perversion must sicken you.

      Delete
    11. More likely is the general intelligence levels in developed countries will continue to fall, roughly by a point a decade. So in 100 years countries like the US and the UK, where the average IQ is around 100 at the moment, will be around 90, similar to today's Pakistan. It will probably be difficult to sustain extremely complex genetic engineering research programs into topics like IQ manipulation by that point.

      Looking at the groups who are most reproductively successful in contemporary Western countries, it is either the low IQ or the highly religious, followed closely by people holding far-right political beliefs. The rare very high IQ individuals and the much more numerous secular midwits are not favoured by natural selection it seems.

      Delete
    12. You know what Unknown? Forget it. You seem to think that peppering your arguments with personal attacks and snide insinuations is acceptable behaviour. It is not, it is vulgar in the extreme, and your attempt to pass it off as honesty is laughable (and if you actually believe it to be mere honesty, then your parents should have beaten some manners into you as a child). For each valid or at least debatable point you make, you then add in two vile smears for good measure. I was *going* to debate the ethics of medical treatment and the implications of such, the differences between what I was talking about and what you were talking about, but then I realised that there would be no point. You aren't in this to find truth - you are in this to insult me, and to make me feel bad by whatever means are available to you. Scripture well describes men like you as mockers, and thousands of years ago it gave advice I ought to have heeded:

      "He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself".

      So, goodbye. Feel free to believe that you've "won" this contest or post some witty retort about me being a snowflake for not putting up with your shit. Believe what you want.

      Delete
    13. Cantus

      I admit that my first paragraph in which I call you a snowflake was out of order and I apologise for that. The post of mine that you were responding to at 9.24AM was provocatively framed but I thought humerous too. I guess that being highly liberal and completely without religious conviction leaves me blind as to how seriously religious people take their beliefs and so how deeply offended they can be when they are satirised. I do not apologise for the rest of the response though, find it disturbing that you think that my parents should have beaten me in any way and think the scriptural injunctions typically unsophisticated psychologically.

      Delete
    14. Yer a good guy Cantus. Yer a better man then I for sure.

      God send ye a rational and decent Atheist, Agnostic or skeptic to dialog and debate with.

      I would nominate a poster named Ficino. He is an ex-Catholic/Agnostic, has academic knowledge in translating Aristotle, some personal knowledge if analytic philosophy and is a fine gentleman and a scholar IMHO.

      I like him. He posts here sometimes look for him. You will find in him a worthy dialog.
      He is smarter than me I think.

      Cheers and Our Lady be with you.

      Delete
    15. @ Unknown on May 15, 2021 at 10:46 AM

      I will respond to your points.

      “It is perfectly natural for prospective parents to desire and hope for the best in their kids, and that includes a set of mental and physical traits which serves them well in life.”

      Agreed.

      “That does not mean that a child will not be loved if things do not turn out well, but what kind of parent is neutral with respect to if their future offspring is neurologically impaired or has a chromasomal abnormality for example?”

      Catholics recognize biological impairment as being undesirable and something that ought to be medically corrected if it can be.

      “Of course, if an issue was discovered during gestation and could be rectified biochemically or by surgery your trust in and reverance for God's providence would evaporate pretty quickly and you would sanction medical treatment.”

      Defects of nature are considered natural evils. God does not cause evil, but rather permits it. One can still consistently trust in God’s providence while recognizing that He permits certain evils to exist.

      “What is the difference in principle then between intervening surgically to correct a heart valve abnormality in the foetus say, and using genetic techniqies to prevent low intelligence ( if that was possible )?”

      Nothing, although the presence of a biological defect is more cut-and-dried than low intelligence, which admits of gradation.

      “Would not both be to reject God 's providence?”

      Yes.

      “In fact, how can medicine be practiced at all without ( on your view ) sticking two fingers up to God's providence?”

      I already explained that. Has to do with God permitting evil without causing it.

      “If you reply that His providence includes our science and technolohy, well that would be the case with genetic interventions too, so why are you so sqeamish about the latter?”

      I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the relevant ecclesial documents. For example, Dignitatis Personae: 'Because the risks connected to any genetic manipulation are considerable and as yet not fully controllable, in the present state of research, it is not morally permissible to act in a way that may cause possible harm to the resulting progeny.'

      “We do not know the limits of what is possible yet, but I would not be surprised if humanity is radically transformed over the next centuary through a combination of genetic engineering and cybernetics.”

      OK.

      “In fact, very long term we may diverge into populations which can no longer interbreed, not that this would prevent sexual relations beteeen the different speciations.”

      Seems far-fetched. What are you basing this on?

      “No doubt the vestige of the RCC that exists then will have plenty to say about it, but I am sure that it will be ignored, and that loving inter-species relationships will flourish.”

      Please define ‘love.’ Did ‘love’ exist, say, between Michel Foucault and the tens of men he reportedly sodomized in gay bath-houses?

      “By the way, I have often wondered if you folk shield your kids from Startrek, because in that universe there are plenty of interspecies relationships, and not all 'races' can generate offspring together. Such perversion must sicken you.”

      It’s called science-fiction.

      Delete
    16. @Son of Ya'kov, I very much appreciate the shout-out. I say dumb things. But I am glad that we are both strangers on the bus trying to make our way home with the lights of reason that have been vouchsafed us.

      Rock on, Jim!

      Delete
  2. Ed
    You are a very fine philosopher and from what your students say about you in RateMyProfessor, you seem like a genial person. In your blogs,however, you increasingly come across as frustrated and unhappy. Like a Southern Baptist preacher, but of course, much smarter. And you are attracting some really strange posters.

    Do something different, ok? Tell us about yourself. What's your favorite foods? Movies? Hobbies? Sometimes you post drawings from Weird Tales. Do you collect that genre? I did years ago. Do you like the outdoors? You live in L.A. Do you like the water? What kind of music do you like? Play an instrument? How did you meet your wife? Do you discuss your writing with her? What's it like being a father? What has your Catholic faith meant to you? Are you active in your parish church? There is another side to Prof.Edward Feser,Ph.D.
    Let's see it, and lighten up this blog. With all good wishes,Anon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I respectfully disagree - this is one of his better posts in the last year or so

      Delete
    2. Hello Anon,

      Not a reaction I usually get, and certainly not a description I think longtime readers, much less anyone who knows me, would recognize. But I suspect that you haven't been a reader of this blog for very long. Perhaps you'll find something more to your liking among these posts:

      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09/pop-culture-roundup.html

      Delete
    3. Also, what is your relationship like with other philosophers in your university department, who I am guessing are not Catholics or conservatives, let alone Thomists? Since you work with them you must surely discuss philosophical issues extensively, especially differences of oppinion. These people are your peers and are at least as well qualified as you are, and the close and extended nature of the relationship means that points of contention can be revisited time and again. Would love to know how all this works out in practice.

      Delete
    4. The pop culture posts that i read before are pretty cool, that looks like a good collection.

      So, Dr. Feser, when anime? You did watch some superhero movies, so there is no excuse now :)

      Delete
    5. I would recommend more Hard Science Fiction in his reading list.

      Delete
    6. @Anon

      His colleagues might not be as qualified as you think in certain matters: https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/12/trust-experts.html

      Delete
  3. For numerous examples of exactly this propensity in action, see Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The bit about envy reminded me of Neil Degrasse Tyson's yearly rant about the Superbowl.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I must witness to the fact that "Lucifer" (Helel ben shachar) is merely the planet Venus. It is not a fallen angel or any such thing. The Prophet's words, 'Ekh nafalta misshamayim, Helel Ben Shachar?' were addressed to the King of Babylon, who in his vanity wore a splendid garment. He was addressed as the planet Venus sarcastically, to rebuke his pretensions.

    HaSatan is not a "fallen angel" either. He is one of G-d's angels performing his assigned tasks, primarily as our accuser in the Heavenly Court but also as the angel of death, the "evil inclination," and the national angel of Edom. There is no independent kingdom of evil under its own evil counterpart of G-d. G-d has no counterpart of any kind.

    This notion of an "evil god" who opposes the "good god" is one of the primary errors of Christianity. The main one is worshiping the miracle-worker described in Deuteronomy 13.

    In these posts about hell, why not mention what Augustine & Aquinas taught about predestination? Embarrassing, isn't it. Here's Aquinas:

    According, then, as He has preordained some men from eternity, so that they are directed to their ultimate end, He is said to have predestined them. Hence, the Apostle says, in Ephesians (1:5): ‘Who predestinated us unto the adoption of children … according to the purpose of His will.’ On the other hand, those to whom He has decided from eternity not to give His grace He is said to have reprobated or to have hated, in accord with what we find in Malachi (1:2-3): ‘I have loved Jacob, but have hated Esau.’ By reason of this distinction, according to which He has reprobated some and predestined others, we take note of divine election, which is mentioned in Ephesians (1:4): ‘He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world.'” Summa Theologica and Summa Contra Gentiles

    The only humans who don't go to hell (per this defamation of G-d) are those predestined. The game is rigged from the start, before the foundation of the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been reading Augustine's City of God. He had been a manechean, positing two gods/substances - one evil and one good, constantly at war with each other, but had eventually rejected that view for Christianity. There he taught explicitly that God is the creater of all things and all beings and their natures and that all of them he created good.

      But in his arguments against the Greek, Roman, and Egyption gods, he notes that the stories, poetry, and religious temple worship often involve immoral act, either perpetrated by the demons directly, or instigating their followers to do so, or enacted by their priests. Books 8, 9, and 10 really center in on this pantheon and attacks them on this basis, and slowly identify them with unclean spirits who lead their adherents into sin and are themselves slaves to vice. He uses the word Demon, which was a Greek word. Socrates was said to have a demon. Egyption, Greek, and Roman sages taught rites to appease the demons, to prevent them from doing bad things or to entice them to do good things. And, as was common in the ancient worlds, many of these demons were associated to celestial objects, such as Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Mercury, and so on.

      In the process of defending the Christians from blame for the fall of Rome, he shows how these demons were not to be worshiped for any good whatsoever, and instead, were intimately involved in the corruption of morals of the youth. Here is an interesting quote from book 8 chapter 27:

      “it remains that the demons, like men, are subject to perturbations because they are not blessed but miserable animals. What folly, therefore, or rather what madness, to submit ourselves through any sentiment of religion to demons, when it belongs to the true religion to deliver us from that depravity which makes us like to them! For Apuleius himself, although he is very sparing toward them, and thinks they are worthy of divine honors, is nevertheless compelled to confess that they are subject to anger; and the true religion commands us not to be moved with anger, but rather to resist it. The demons are won over by gifts; and the true religion commands us to favor no one on account of gifts received. The demons are flattered by honors; but the true religion commands us by no means to be moved by such things. The demons are haters of some men and lovers of others, not in consequence of a prudent and calm judgment, but because of what he calls their passive soul; whereas the true religion commands us to love even our enemies. Lastly, the true religion commands us to put away all disquietude of heart and agitation of mind, and also all commotions and tempests of the soul, which Apuleius asserts to be continually swelling and surging in the souls of demons. Why, therefore, except through foolishness and miserable error should you humble yourself to worship a being to whom you desire to be unlike in your life? And why should you pay religious homage to him whom you are unwilling to imitate, when it is the highest duty of religion to imitate Him whom you worship?”

      So it is from Christianity's struggles with the Pagan religions that we get such interesting characters in Dante's hell, most of which are taken directly from Greek, Roman, and Egyptian myths.

      Another interesting source of analysis for demonic activity is from the Gospels themselves. Again, Augustine looks at the character of the demons who are being cast out by Jesus. They are arrogant, suffused with rage, hatred, pride, jealousy, envy, lust and so on. Jesus has power over them and casts them out. And he makes reference to a demonic father of lies. Here we get the true source of the doctrine of Satan – it is Jesus himself.

      Delete
  6. Feser is an apologist and propagandist for hugely contested philosophical, political and theological views, and ultimately this post is just a great big dollop of self congratulation about how he is correct , and legions of intellectuals far more philosophically accomolished than the good associate professor at City College are dead wrong and will pay the price eternally in the end. Talk about massaging ones deluded ego.

    Apparantly, Google Chrome have labelled this site as one of concern, which given Feser's obvious agenda ( disguised behind the facade of being an apparantly respectable minor academic ) and the extremist content he facilitates in the discussion threads, is not surprising. I would not for a second wish for the blog to be taken down, but there should be appropriate warnings about its character and content, and the nature of Feser's mission.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's amusing to see such butthurt comments here because apparently the shoe fit for a handful of blokes

      Delete
    2. @Anon

      " Apparantly, Google Chrome have labelled this site as one of concern, which given Feser's obvious agenda "

      I think you have some malware buddy, because I have read this blog on different computers, including public university computers and got no warning.

      Also let me guess, someone posted a Feser post to show you how wrong you were on the internet and now you came here to cry?

      Delete
  7. "Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. vi, 12): “Man's excellence consists in the fact that God made him to His own image by giving him an intellectual soul, which raises him above the beasts of the field.”"

    Seems like a translation of the terminology from Greek to Latin to English error, for had this been written in Greek, he would have said like Epictetus "a rational soul" not "an intellectual soul." And I think that works better. Some people are "intellectual", but they have left rationality behind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You seem to be quibbling on an equivocal use of "intellectual". The English version of Aquinas merely means "the sort of soul of a thing having an intellect". Both the stupid man and the ivory-tower intellectual have an intellect.

      Delete
    2. Tony, from what I understand intellectus basically means mind in English. Whereas now days by intellect people do not mean the mind but a quality of the mind, like IQ. That's what I meant.

      Delete
  8. Please, people: Do Not Feed... Please!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes people, do as policeman Tony instructs. Do not engage with anyone who is critical of Feser, conservatism, Catholicism or whatever other Holy Cow he might deem worthy of special protection. Be like good little Catholics, accept your infantilisation and OBAY!

      Delete
    2. Well said Tony they are all sociopaths.

      Cheers boss.

      Delete
    3. PS I vote we have a universal moratorium against responding to Anon posts and or other trolls.

      BTW such a ban does not include Atheists/Agnostics and Skeptics of good will with good challenging philosophical question.

      Like Ficino and guys like him.

      Cheers all.

      Delete
    4. Ya'kov

      Why would you arbitrarily ban responding to a post simply because it was tagged 'Anonymous'. Does not the content matter you mindless dolt? And who is the arbiter of whether someone is a troll or not?

      In any case Yako is a humungous hypocrite as he has fed those accused of being trolls so much in the past that they are now obese and dying of heart attacks.

      Delete
    5. Ya'kov 1.36AM

      Anyone you deem to be a troll is a sociopath are they? Well, not only is that an absurd generalisation, but it is the pot calling the kettle black with knobs on!!!!

      Delete
    6. Miguel CervantesMay 16, 2021 at 5:25 AM

      Sounds very reasonable, Son of Ya'Kov.

      Delete
    7. Cervantes

      Says the most egregious troll in the history of the blog, actually explicitly banned by Feser. Bet you know all about sociopaths!

      Delete
    8. Tony and Yakov,

      Yes, good idea. I'm sometimes guilty of responding to the trolls myself, and always instantly regret it. Thanks for reminding me.

      Delete
  9. The state of the intellectual is in many ways the most spiritually dangerous because such a person can most easily delude himself that he is independent of God and self-sufficient. Really, the only thing that can save him is love as that takes him beyond himself to something greater.

    ReplyDelete
  10. That is why we know that we first know and love God. Since God is the first and last explanation, God only knows His wisdom, and therefore His will is good. Thus, because a thought or direction deviates from the right or wrong path, it destroys the difference in salvation that leads to God's salvation.

    But how strong is it? What is the biggest mistake I can make? No need to start. Because when that happens, the world seeks the truth and seeks wisdom for the evil it seeks. This is one of the reasons why researchers cannot be punished. When they are very intelligent, they go to modern thinking when reality is blind.

    It is not difficult to be like God or to show moral values. Plato's modern philosophers, and Aristotle's platinum, are difficult to confuse with others, just as toilets (if they have problems) should be discarded, so don't ask for them. Wise people don't just think about the same values ​​and religions because they are difficult. Adequate skills are needed not only to attack the imagination, but also to create stories and ideas.

    If these scientists were not from Plato's family, there would be no confusion. And if you play with that family, they will be punished. Cruelty; this can remove comparisons and doubts.

    The biggest drawback though is the number. Many modern scientists have fallen into this trap. Moreover, these mistakes led to the deadly violence of Aquinas and Plato - who warns that it affects sexual behavior. Critical thinking can lead to misrepresentation of speech, leading to a variety of thoughts that lead to loss of hope and constant anxiety. The result is that in the first chapter of the novel, St. Paul links racism to sexual immorality. Today it is the same everywhere; it's usually fun, but at least two or ten years ago you cheated for a while.

    There is an old saying: "The worst corruption is the worst." Now his mind is the king of life. Life is comparable to a royal philosopher. But when the mind recognizes the complexity and perception of false desires, it recognizes power. It will reign like the fall of government and dictatorship.

    Physical sin can be as tempting as any expert, but it is not revealed. You must find one of the seven sinners.

    ReplyDelete
  11. From WCB

    Ed Feser:
    "And yet the greatest of these angelic intellects, Lucifer, fell from grace and took many other angels with him."

    Yet in Job 1 and 2, God and Satan seem to be friends. I note there is no mention of Satan in the Pentateuch, or how to deal with Satan.

    One might ask, if Satan and devils and mean little imps cause so much evil and sinning, why the perfectly morally good God tolerates this. Why does not God banish Satan, and devils from Planet Earth?
    Or perhaps, change their nature from evil to good?

    Or did not eliminate original sin on day one? Which would have saved everybody, including God, a whole bunch of trouble.

    Questions #124 and #125 of "1,001 Questions To Puzzle And Irritate Theologians And Theists".

    WCB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did not know there were 1001 stupid questions for new atheists circle-jerks! Cool!

      That said in the book of job satan is not so much "the devil" as some sort of "heavenly public prosecutor". The narrative of the book of Job is not about heaven and hell, but a mere framework on the question of suffering.

      I note there is no mention of Satan in the Pentateuch, or how to deal with Satan.

      Because we do not need to deal with satan, also there is such thing as progressuive revelation in the bible. We are not Sadducees here who only take the torah in account.

      The rest has been widely discussed already on many posts that defang the problem of evil (I am sure you are not at all a troll and will do your research /sarc)

      I hope the pages of "1,001 Questions To Puzzle And Irritate Theologians And Theists" have good absorbance properties, because if not you just bought highly ineffective and overpriced toilet paper. ;)

      Delete
    2. WCB writes.

      I am limiting my list to 1,001 questions because there just too many foolish theological claims to list them all. This could go on forever.

      And now,my other big question. If God could eliminate original sin on day one, why didn't God do so?

      If you were God, would you run the Universe this way? When we run into these sorts of theological problems, please ask yourself this question. Why does God seem to have such poor problem solving skills?

      “After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say 'I want to see the manager.”
      ― William S. Burroughs, The Adding Machine: Selected Essays

      WCB

      Delete
  12. Message of this post: Don't critically think about the "common sense" of believing in my invisible friend who determines what is right and wrong for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, Ed argues that humans can and do know basic facts of what is right and wrong while remaining atheists. It is easier to know that murder is wrong than to know that God exists. You don't need to be an intellectual to know that it is wrong to kill a six month old baby. But it takes an intellectual like Peter Singer to argue that it is fine to kill a six month old baby.

      Delete
    2. From WCB.

      What about Satan, demons and original sin? Why does God allow their existence?

      WCB

      Delete
    3. Message of **this** post: The universe is merely meaningless, purposeless particle vibrations. But in spite of this, GHF somehow knows that some particles (i.e. his opponents) are vibrating the "wrong" way. How would he know this? Well, by a meaningless particle vibration that he somehow thinks is "right", of course.

      Meanwhile, he thinks everyone else is dumb.

      Delete
    4. TN 12.33PM

      Typically dumb post from TN.

      Surely WCB is presenting his arguments from within your belief system, assuming it in order to expose major problems for you. These do not disappear simply because you trot out a silly , irrelevant post.

      OK, I believe in libertarian free will and moral realism say, so making me immune to your distractions. Now answer the points WCB raises.

      Delete
    5. Tim

      I am not arguing for, or against, moral epistemology. I am arguing for critical thinking.

      Delete
    6. T N

      Message of your post: If the universe is not meaningless purposeless particle vibrations, then thoughts should be critically evaluated.

      Do you want to engage in actual conversation with me, or did you want to simply argue against your own strawmen?


      Delete
    7. Oops. Should read...

      "If the universe is not meaningless purposeless particle vibrations, then NO thoughts should be critically evaluated."

      Delete
    8. I always thought GHF is a woman.

      Delete
  13. From WCB

    The Moral Nature Of Man Argument

    If God designs and created us, he must have designed our moral nature. And God had three choices.

    1. Create man with an evil moral nature.
    2. Create man with a morally indifferent moral nature.
    3. Create man with a morally good moral nature.

    But no matter our nature, God is responsible for choosing 1., 2., or 3. By choosing 2., moral indifference, we do not gain any sort of free will. We only get a moral nature prone to moral
    failure. Since we get no choice, all is God's choice. If God is good, then God must choose 3. And God would know this.

    We can have no free will. Our free will is constrained by our God given moral nature. We are told that God is perfectly good, the source of all goodness in the Universe. That evil does not actually exist it is a lack of goodness, not a thing in and of itself.

    But if we lack perfect and a good moral nature caused by God's choice of our moral nature, that lack of goodness is God's fault. As is all resulting horrendous moral evils.

    WCB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your argument is the most elementary form of question-begging. You assume your conclusion in your premises, by claiming that God could have made intelligent creatures in such a way that they could not possibly choose any moral wrong. You assume the nonexistence of free will in order to prove the nonexistence of free will, and then you blame God for your shoddy logic.

      You could have saved yourself the trouble.

      Delete
    2. From WCB

      Nonsense. The initial assumption is that God creates us. Then logically it follows that God must design our moral nature. Then it follows he has only three choices.

      Nothing at all assuming any conclusion here.

      The conclusion holds. A God that does not choose to create mankind with a good moral nature gets blame for all moral evil committed by God's flawed creations.

      WCB

      Delete
  14. The people who truly are exceptional intellects—the ones capable of engineering sophistries complex enough to be plausible—are quickly followed, it seems, by cheap copycats. Hume, Foucault, Sartre, et. Al. were brilliant thinkers (even if wrong), but their progeny are dumb as posts. You don’t have to read much of the “intellectuals” of the “critical theories” before you realize we’re just being punked. Word salad and gibberish is now praised in faculty lounges and corporate strategy meetings as if it’s quantum computing. The sycophants pretend to see the new dawn, when in reality they are just hoping to not have their houses burned down by the pitchfork mobs.

    When the pendulum shift puts the right in power, the cycle of corruption continues: an intellectual schema followed by enforcement via brutality.

    "The job of the liberals is to keep making mistakes. The job of the conservatives is to make sure those mistakes never get corrected." GK Chesterton

    ReplyDelete
  15. From WCB

    The conservatives of the US, the GOP, are in thrall to Donald Trump and fools like Atrhur Laffer and Larry Kudlow. Fools who have not been right about anything for 40 years. We have the GOP trying to overturn fair elections, lying about stolen elections and not doing much of anything about America's racism problem, or climate change.

    We can have competent government or MAGAt, QAnon soaked buffoonery. Remember when Shrub Bush and the GOP controlled House and Senate left office with America's economy a smoking ruin? and how Obama turned things around despite Mitch McConnell and the GOP Congressional leadership meeting before Obama was even seated as President to agree not to cooperate with Obama in anything? But Obama saved America despite that obstructionism.

    You seem to have a short and not very good memory of recent years kind mercies of the conservatives in the US.

    WCB

    ReplyDelete
  16. Well, we all knew it was only a matter of time before someone somehow tried to drag Trump into the discussion. I could write a post on gardening or checkers or mineralogy and some lunatic would before long drag Trump into it. Sheer insanity.

    As others have noted, most of the critical remarks around here of late have been real crap. Just juvenile, worthless stuff -- off-topic ranting, endless streams of question-begging assertions, obscenities and insults and pissing matches, oddball sock puppetry, and other such garbage. I'm tempted to delete the whole lot of it, but naturally that would only lead the usual suspects to double down with more of the same crap, accusations of censorship, blah blah blah. And then people on the other side start producing retaliatory crap of their own in response to the trolls, and before you know it a whole thread becomes ruined as more sober people tune out.

    As longtime readers know, intelligent critics are always welcome here. But they are thin on the ground these days. So, could you people please try to up your game? Here's a clue: Don't waste everyone's time with ad hominem remarks about what a jerk I am, what my true motives were in writing a post, etc. Don't waste everyone's time just mouthing off about how stupid what I wrote is, etc. Don't waste everyone's time ranting about your personal political or other obsessions. We already know you don't agree with me or what I write, that you don't like such-and-such politicians, and so on. Fine, whatever.

    But this is a philosophy blog, and it is mine. It is not a place I masochistically provide for you to vent your spleen about whatever your personal obsessions happen to be. So, be polite, stay on topic, and for goodness' sake try to give actual reasoned arguments for what you say rather than just expressing outrage and the like. That's much more valuable for the people you disagree with, and for your own rationality and mental health. Most importantly, it's essential to keeping the comments section worth reading.

    But if you are not willing to do that, then kindly get lost. There are literally thousands of other places on the internet for you to churn out low-quality commentary to your heart's content.

    And to everyone else, for the 1,234th time, please stop the troll-feeding. And that means to stop also the interminable meta-level discussions about troll-feeding, which inevitably just degenerate into first-level troll fests. Just ignore trolls. That means ignoring them rather than getting one last barb in, or talking about ignoring them, or expressing annoyance about how other people aren't ignoring them, etc. All of that too ultimately just amounts to indirect troll-feeding.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Ed Feser

      >And then people on the other side start producing retaliatory crap of their own in response to the trolls, and before you know it a whole thread becomes ruined as more sober people tune out.

      For my part in that I apologize.

      >Just ignore trolls. That means ignoring them rather than getting one last barb in, or talking about ignoring them, or expressing annoyance about how other people aren't ignoring them, etc. All of that too ultimately just amounts to indirect troll-feeding.

      I'm in let's do that. But at the risk of being labelled paranoid I get the feeling this is organized. Gnus can't hold their own in intelligent discussion of God more sophisticated than YOUNG EARTH CREATIONISM so they just try to shut it down.


      Like their leftist counter parts with their speech codes and mob violence.

      Is there a better way to fight these people? Because I don't want to cede the public square to anti-intellectual thugs.

      Cheers boss.

      Delete
    2. I can't help but think that that last paragraph was meant for me. Message received, sir.

      Delete
    3. PS here is a suggestion...yer a professor get a trusted grad student or under grad who has access to yer blog and can purge it of the wee trolls. Also ban their IP's.

      Nobody would miss 'em. Cheers again boss.

      OTOH if that is bad advise I apologize ahead of time.

      You da man Prof Feser.

      Delete
    4. Mister Geocon,

      NO IT IS FOR ME!!! HE LIKES ME BETTER!! :D

      Just kidding, peace be with you and Our Lady be with you.

      Delete
    5. Feser

      What is in principle wrong with bringing Trump into a discussion, though of course you frame it as 'dragging him in'? Is the great man and his hoards of doting accolytes and flunkies out of bounds for discussion now then, no doubt partly to burry memory of your past blindness in this area?

      Feser, you write a post in which you berate people for making insulting ad hominem remarks, but manage to call WCB a lunatic in the first paragraph. What a hypocrite.

      Delete
    6. Feser PS

      Although these discussion threads have many pathologies, they are at least not a closed echo chamber, replite with gobby Sons of Ya'kov and extremist Mr Geocons. And long may that continue.

      Delete
    7. Unknown,

      I think it's warranted to call people lunatics when they constantly obsess over Trump when they don't need to and dismiss those they disagree with as "gobby" and "extremist."

      Delete
    8. Geocon 7.27AM

      If these conditions were met perhaps, but WCB does not constantly obsess about Trump, and I do not generally label those I disagree with as gobby or extremist, but in point of fact Yakov is gobby and you are an extremist by any ordinary standard.

      Incidentally, am I not one of those nasty trolls you very recently grovellingly promised Feser not to feed ( Message received sir )? Seems that you cannot control yourself for even one day. LOL

      Delete
    9. Unknown,

      So you're admitting you're a troll I ought to ignore? Message received.

      Delete
    10. Geocon 10.04PM

      No I am not admitting that I am a troll, but you have claimed that I am on numerous occasions, and it should be obvious to you which 'Unknown' I am because of my comments about you and Yakov. So do not try to excuse yourself from so quickly ignoring Feser's latest plea not to feed trolls ( ' Message received sir' - well, for ten seconds anyway ).

      Your retaliatory post above has just led to a discussion about trolling by the way, something else that Feser warned you about. He must be well sick of you.

      Delete
  17. From WCB

    TN decided to derail this thread with a rant about those bad liberals. He got answered. It ain't the liberals who are today's big problem with the US.

    Now, back to issues. Why doesn't God by fiat end original sin for all on day one. Why does God allow Satan and devils to run free doing morally evil things? Why would God not choose to give all mankind good moral natures, rather than indifferent or bad moral natures?

    WCB

    ReplyDelete
  18. From WCB

    Aquinas -Summa Theologica
    Question 62 - The Theological Virtues
    Pars Prima Secunda Part 1

    And these principles are called theological virtues, not only because
    (a) they have God as their object, but also because
    (b) they are infused in us by God alone and because
    (c) these virtues are made known (tradunt ur) to us only through divine
    revelation, in Sacred Scripture.


    Why does God not grant all mankind maximum theological virtues? The Bible tells us God IS fair, just, merciful, compassionate, righteous and IS love.

    Is it fair or just to give Jane maximum theological virtues and next to none to John, who will not have salvation? Who will do morally evil acts and be condemned to hell in eternal torment?

    If God grant all maximum theological virtues, this world would contain very little acts of horrendous moral evil.

    WCB

    ReplyDelete
  19. Well said, WCB. And I don't see much to substantiate Feser's claim about intellectuals being "hell-bent'on destroying belief in God."Religious books sell far more copies than atheist books. So do religious magazines. Where is the Atheist Network on cable tv? The Evangelical Right is well organized and very influential. Where is equivalent on the Left?. There are more pro-life than pro choice groups.More conservative think tanks than liberal ones. Churches are everywhere. As for sexual immorality among intellectuals, well, I work with blue collar folks. They talk about sexual adventures as much as my white collar colleagues did when I was in corporate retail. Trump lost but Republicans did very well down ballot. I am glad that he believes it will be difficult for the rich to enter heaven.But Feser seldom criticizes the Rich.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Feser's 'sexual immorality' is just transgression of a rule , ie that sexual behaviour should not 'defeat' its telos, quite independently of wider considerations. As such, who cares if some forms of this 'immorality' are proliferating among intellectuals or anyone else? Responsible, consentual 'immorality' of this kind can be a very desirable thing ( thinks artificial birth control and family planning, same sex relationships in those so predisposed, free and uninhibited sex lives for all etc ), and people naturally become 'immoral' in this way just as soon as they gain the requisite freedom from religious indoctrination and authoritarian political control.

      Delete
    2. Where is the equivalent of evangelicals and pro-lifers on the Left?

      I mean, name a left-wing issue, and you'll find at least one well-funded activist group and several intellectuals dedicated to promoting it. For abortion? We have Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and various feminist organizations. For atheism, we have the New Atheist media surge and the various organizations dedicated to secularism. And that's not getting into the university system and the media-entertainment complex, whose center-left bias is well-documented (and no, the existence of Fox News is not proof that media doesn't have a left-wing bias; it's the exception that proves the rule).

      I am amazed by the mental gymnastics of the Left. They constantly have to paint themselves as rebels while ignoring all of the powerful organizations that are catering to their whims. Their collective reaction to the CIA's woke advertisements is a stark example of this.

      Here's a mental exercise for you guys: imagine a scenario in which every progressive in any position of influence or authority was replaced by an equal and opposite Christian fundamentalist, and vice versa, so that all the progressive institutions were run by fundamentalists and all the fundamentalist institutions were run by progressives. In this America, Harvard, Stanford, and Yale are fundamentalist seminaries that emit all the “Jesus-freak” codewords, secret Mormon handshakes, and miscellaneous baloney you’d expect a fundamentalist would. Meanwhile, Bob Jones, Oral Roberts, and Patrick Henry are diverse, progressive, and socially- and environmentally-conscious centers of learning, and their entire freshman class lines up to sing “Imagine” every morning. Would you hesitate to describe this imaginary America as a fundamentalist theocracy? If so, then would that say about the relative power of progressives in modern-day America?

      Delete
    3. I am amazed by the mental gymnastics of the Left. They constantly have to paint themselves as rebels while ignoring all of the powerful organizations that are catering to their whims.

      That's because the left holds that the unfettered operation of the will is the highest good. Since the exercise of authority necessarily constrains the ability of those under it to act according to their own wills, it follows that all authority is ipso facto tyrannical. Hence the left cannot admit that they are in positions of authority, because that would, according to their own theories, make them complicit in tyranny.

      Delete
    4. Gaius,

      That's certainly an interesting idea, to tie it to their rejection of authority as such. I honestly think that it's part of an effort to avoid being responsible for the failures of their political projects by blaming them on the enemies of their political coalition (Europeans, "capitalists", men, Christians, rural Americans, etc.).

      I mean, for all the failures of the Republican Party and the conservative movement writ large, Leftist political projects have a consistent record of failure if their goal was to improve the lives of the people they targeted.

      Delete
    5. To give some examples:

      Racial inequality/civil rights: We are no closer to achieving material equality between whites and blacks today than we were during the 1980s despite Affirmative Action. Progressive areas in particular seem unable to handle the problems that afflict black communities.

      Sexual Revolution/Feminism: Young people today feel a lot of resentment toward the opposite sex (as can be seen in the Incel and MGTOW movements on the Right and the Intersectional Feminist and the anti-natalist movements on the Left). Women's happiness overall has declined.

      Socialism/Anti-Capitalism: This doesn't even need to be addressed, except to note (with some irony) that neoliberalism seems to have subverted the Left completely through the funding of "diversity" and "inclusion" initiatives. The main anti-capitalist momentum mostly comes out of the Right, in the form of paleoconservatives like Tucker Carlson or Integralists like Patrick Deneen. These groups have better economic solutions than "revolution."

      Need I continue, or do I need to say more?

      Delete
  20. Day 2 of remembering Feser to respond to Joe Schmid's criticism on the First and Third Ways if he can.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John DeRosa already responded to Joe Schmid.

      Enjoy.

      http://www.classicaltheism.com/plethora/

      Delete
    2. Joe Schmid is a philosophy undergrad. Why cite him and not a fellow PhD? Anyway a bunch of Thomist undergrads respond to him in the link above. Again enjoy. Peace be with you.

      Delete
  21. You can check out Joseph Schmid's criticism of the Aristotelian Proof here:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/469kesybuh9gsbr/Aristotelian%20proof%2C%20ch%203.docx?dl=0

    I really, really want Feser to respond to these types of objections.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The boys over at

      http://www.classicaltheism.com/plethora/


      Seem to have it in hand. Schmid seems to be channeling Oppy's objection to the act/potency distinction by giving examples of Cambridge change as opposed to real change.

      But Cambridge change is not real change but relative change. So it is not a valid objection.

      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/02/discussion-with-graham-oppy.html

      Delete
  22. "For when that occurs, an intellect is less likely to arrive at truth, and likely instead to seek out rationalizations for the evil it has fallen in love with."

    I was thinking about this quote from Ed's post. Often it isn't so much that the thing they have fallen in love with is evil in itself, but that it is not the kind of good that can ultimately satisfy our highest ends.

    It reminded me of this quote from St. Francis de Sales:

    "When therefore we ardently love worldly and temporal things, beauty, honours, riches, rank - this zeal, that is the ardour of this love, ends ordinarily in envy: because these base and vile things are so little, limited, particular, finite, and imperfect, that being possessed by one, another cannot entirely possess them. So that being communicated to many, each one in particular has a less perfect communication of them."

    So the rational framework whereby intellectuals try to frame reality leaves out their highest good, thus leaving them dissatisfied. For example, the highest good of marxists appears to be material wealth. On Aquinas and Francis' scale, they are settling on lower goods that cannot satisfy the human heart. Same thing for modern liberals. They seem to love ... comforts, sexual freedom, freedom to indulge in every distraction, which leads to a disordered society where the higher goods are cut off from them or neglected, and vice and sin can flourish. And so they are desperately unhappy, because they love lesser things or even evil things. And so they become envious of others, whether those others are worthy of that envy or not.

    This is, of course, just another way of saying what Ed has already said here:

    "Why are so many intellectuals seemingly hell-bent on trying to shatter ordinary people’s belief in God, free will, morality, and the like? Here’s one possible reason. People who believe in these things tend to be happier than those who do not. If you are someone who sees yourself as superior to such people, you are bound to be tempted to resent their happiness and to be pleased at the thought of destroying what you take to be the illusions that generate it. And being pained at the good of another so that one desires to see it destroyed is envy."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One reason why religious people are happier might be that we are biologically hard wired to be religious by nature. And this religious nature is of such a character that it is meant to keep us from excessively desiring things that cannot fully satisfy us. I think we have some kind of intuitive sense that there must be some kind of unifying source from which all these lesser goods stem, and we instinctively want to worship and love that source. Perhaps this has a psychological foundation in the fact that we are born dependent on our parents for everything from the very beginning, and as we notice our dependence, we realise that all the comforts we have and indulge in are dependent on that one source - our mother and father. And as we grow and develop, that sense of dependency never goes away. We remain dependent for all that we have on the wider society in which we move and exist. But unlike animals, we have intellectual appetites that cannot be satisfied by mere physical and sensual pleasures. Those desires of the intellect reach beyond the bounds of the material universe and pierce into the immaterial world of thought and intellect and reason where the angels reside and where the ultimate source of all things can be perceived, although only dimly.

      But for those who worship, and who love it, and who desire it, that relationship gives them hope, such that they are less attached to the lesser goods of this world and are therefore more resilient to the vicisitudes of life. They are happier.

      Delete
  23. Miguel CervantesMay 16, 2021 at 7:09 AM

    It's true that Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus disregarded enormous swathes of common sense by making their divinities non-personal and refusing to pray to them. They all managed to identify some attributes that belong only to God, while rejecting others that also belong necessarily to the divinity (omnipotence in the case of Plato, and omniscience in Aristotle's idea). Ancient common sense, though mixed with a thousand errors, was correct in believing that divinity had, from the very beginning, conversed with humans, and revealed religion. Ancient mythology was a travesty of religion, but it understood that personality was a necessary divine attribute.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus suffer from "prideful self-sufficiency and contempt for those who do not have the same gifts (whether smarts or money)"?

      Delete
    2. At this point only God would know the answer to that question.

      Delete
    3. Apparently Ed Feser knows the answer too.

      Delete
    4. I don't see how that can be so? He has make no such claim.

      Delete
  24. Dr Feser says: "Demonstrating things like God’s existence or the natural law foundations of traditional morality is not, after all, that hard. What is difficult is cutting through the enormous tangle of sophistries by which modern thinkers have obscured our view of what was clear enough to intellects like those of Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus and the like. You have to deny vast swaths of common sense (concerning matters like causality and teleology, for example) in order to get skepticism about these things off the ground. Less intelligent and well-educated people find it harder to do that, which is why they are less likely to reject traditional morality and religion. It takes a high degree of intelligence to develop narratives and theories that not only defy common sense, but make it seem reasonable to do so."

    Going all Bania-to-Seinfeld here: "That's gold, Ed! Gold!"

    This appears to fit in with my larger discovery over the last quarter century that our public intellectuals are often full of it. (When you parse their word salads, they are either saying something that is trivially true, or it is jibberish.)

    In my milieu, a decent percentage of the appeal to skepticism and antichristian thinking is due to the self-bestowed sense of intellectual superiority that comes with new atheism or skepticism. It's an easy way to boost one's self-importance.

    As a former obnoxious skeptic (many decades ago) and as a friend to a bunch of former obnoxious skeptics (all who like me converted gradually), we note how much this intellectual pride factored in to our pretense of having "risen above religion" and in being future philosopher-kings who would set the benighted masses straight. The goal is to not have the same faulty pride rear its head, even if in service to a truer cause. CS Lewis' apologists prayer comes to mind here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. >In my milieu, a decent percentage of the appeal to skepticism and antichristian thinking is due to the self-bestowed sense of intellectual superiority that comes with new atheism or skepticism.

      I agree that might true for some and not others. It was true for you as you testify from yer experience.

      I too might think that about some non-believers but I kinda feel guilty about it too. In a formal argument in defense of Classic Theism and the truths of the Catholic faith or a formal argument contra the claims of Atheism and other errors it does no good to speculate on the motives of the other person's belief or disbelief sans actual arguments directed against said beliefs vs for them. Why?

      Some people can in theory believe the correct thing for bad reasons. Also some people can believe in incorrect things for seeming good reasons.

      Lately I have had to endure the yammerings of some Gnu Atheist who is convinced I have been "indoctrinated" into Classic Theism and using his pop psychology nonsense he keeps asking for my "testimony" so he can find the "real reason" for my delusions.

      It is hard not to roll yer eyes.

      Cheers brother.

      Delete
    2. I agree with everything you said.

      Delete
  25. Great post! One of the best this year, Ed.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I am often reminded of Augustine's quote: "peace is the tranquility of order".
    Sin is disorder, the placing of a created thing above it's due station. This is a decision of the will, and the intellect is in thrall to the demands of the will. If that intellect has more resources, it is just a bigger hammer to carry out the will's miguiding directive.
    But the problem does not lie with that intellect, nor its size, It still lies in the will.
    Having said that, i suppose that a lesser intellect could run into more problems effecting the will's designs, thereby giving the will incentive to reconsider its orientation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Bob,

      Thanks for quoting this - its a beautiful passage in the City of God. Its Book 19, chapter 13 https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120119.htm

      "The peace of the body then consists in the duly proportioned arrangement of its parts. The peace of the irrational soul is the harmonious repose of the appetites, and that of the rational soul the harmony of knowledge and action. The peace of body and soul is the well-ordered and harmonious life and health of the living creature. Peace between man and God is the well-ordered obedience of faith to eternal law. Peace between man and man is well-ordered concord. Domestic peace is the well-ordered concord between those of the family who rule and those who obey. Civil peace is a similar concord among the citizens. The peace of the celestial city is the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God. The peace of all things is the tranquillity of order."

      The way I understand it is that the the will can be trained by the intellect, so to speak, such that a bad will can, over time, be slowly trained out of bad habits by making good choises over time. And vice versa for a good will. The more our will is habituated to choosing the good, the more difficult it is to choose evil. The more our will is habituated to choosing evil, the harder it is to choose the good. On an A/T account, because the good is in accord with the order of our nature, the wicked person is thus less free and more miserable, because they cannot reach the fulfillment of their natural ends.

      Delete
  27. The writer of Revelation always struck me as someone who might have been the most picked-on kid in the ancient Palestinian equivalent of eighth grade.

    This OP is kinda sorta like Revelation. Retribution visited out upon those who are not part of the writer's tribe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ficino4ml,

      Has it ever occurred to you or some of the other folks here that the explanation for why a writer writes what he does might simply be the reason he actually gives, rather than anything to do with these creative attempts at amateur psychoanalysis?

      From the POV of the Catholic and Aristotelian-Thomistic traditions, the intellect is what is highest and most Godlike in us. So it might seem that intellectual superiority might entail moral superiority and being closer to God. And yet the same traditions imply the opposite. Interesting apparent paradox there, and worth exploring in, say, a blog post.

      That puzzle was in fact the inspiration for the blog post. But I know that these ad hominem responses are more fun, and much easier than, you know, actually thinking.

      (Note to some readers who don't seem to know what an ad hominem fallacy is: It essentially has to do, not with calling someone a name -- that may or may not involve a fallacy, depending on context -- but rather is a matter of pretending to have responded to a person's claim or argument by instead focusing on some alleged defect in the person himself, such as a hidden suspect motive, purported character fault, hypocrisy, or the like. For examples, see many of the comments in the thread above.)

      Delete
    2. @Edward Feser,

      To be honest, I have no idea what point you are trying to make. You are contending that the writer of Revelation was just, what ... writing about non-members of the tribe being consigned to lakes and such? OK.

      Your riffs on ad hominem fallacies elude comprehension in context. You may think the writer of Revelation was not like the most picked on kid in the ancient Palestinian equivalent of eighth grade. And there we differ.

      Does it follow from what you write that the dumber someone one, is greater the likelihood that person will make it through the pearly gates?

      Delete
    3. Hi Ficinio

      Are you ficinio as in ficinio Son of Ya'kov's favourite atheist , who he was recommending earlier in the thread? If so it would be more than intetesting both from a human and intellectual point if view to know why you gave up your Catholicism and theism in general and became an atheist.

      Delete
    4. Ficinio

      PS I think Feser was probably thinking of me when he started going on about the meaning of ad hominem as I inadvertantly omitted the word 'and' from a sentence critical of him in an earlier post and so wrote ' insulting ad hominem remarks'. His remarks were insulting but not ad hominem.

      Delete
    5. ficino4ml,

      You had written:

      This OP is kinda sorta like Revelation. Retribution visited out upon those who are not part of the writer's tribe.

      That's the remark I was replying to. I didn't make any comment on what you said about Revelation itself.

      You ask:

      Does it follow from what you write that the dumber someone one, is greater the likelihood that person will make it through the pearly gates?

      The answer is No, that doesn't follow.

      Delete
    6. Feser 11.11PM

      But if dumb people tend to unquestioningly assimilate the common sense morality and conservatism they encounter around them, and you have to be bright to intellectualise your way out of this, surely being dumb is a saving advantage, all else being equal?

      Delete
    7. Miguel CervantesMay 17, 2021 at 6:42 AM

      Ficino.
      Having a rational nature is a precondition for seeing God, but whether it happens or not is dependent on the will, on the human side. What was it the angels said to the shepherds at Bethlehem?

      Delete
    8. Anonymous,

      Dumb people can be easily fooled into taking up morally questionable views just because they came from a source they trusted, or they can be led astray by some of the baser vices like lust, since they may be more impulsive.

      Delete
  28. From WCB

    Ed Feser:
    "Moreover, angels, being pure intellects entirely independent of matter, are in that respect even more like God than we are, and certainly more intelligent. And yet the greatest of these angelic intellects, Lucifer, fell from grace and took many other angels with him."

    We are told Satan and his devils plague mankind, cause people to sin, and do evil things, and all cause much trouble and evil in this world

    Why does God tolerate this? Why does not the omnipotent,omnibenevolent, all powerful God not banish Satan and his devils from this world? Why did God not eliminate original sin on the first day original sin was created?

    Sneering at intellectuals who ask such questions as being victims of "rationalizations and sophistries" is nonsense. There are many good reasons to doubt the claims of Christianity. I have posted few here, but nobody except a few trolls seems to be willing to engage with these arguments.

    Back to you and Ficino4ML.

    WCB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would claim that in addition to there being many good reasons to doubt the claims of Christianity, there are no compelling reasons to accept it. Feser and co start off with philosophical deliberations about the nature of existance, but then slide effortlessly to Christianity and one branch of it in particular. To someone not socialised into the faith or otherwise committed to it, each rung of the apologetic ladder seems contrived and implausible, a case of constructing a perhaps self consistant edifice then bowing down before it, completely forgetting that it is their own invention.

      Puzzled about the precise nature of Jesus? Well, have a lengthy early church debate about it and freely invent the concept of the trinity and the notion that he was both fully human and fully divine. But what about the obvious philosophical problems that these bizarre novelties present? Well, either bow down to them as divine mysteries or expend a great deal of intellectual time and effort over the centuaries inventing logically possible though implausible solutions, but then rest content as if this demonstrates the truth of the concepts and notions under investigation. And so it goes on - a veritable house of cards, invented and developed over time to preserve and legitimise beliefs that were always going to be held anyway!

      Intelligent, uncommitted people who come across this stuff for the first time see it for what it is - intellectually disreputable, and that is a big reason why academics so widely reject the entire concoction.

      Delete
    2. WCB,

      I believe Dr. Feser already answered your question of why God tolerates evil in his article "The Thomistic Dissolution of the Logical Problem of Evil". Your point about Satan adds nothing to that.

      The problem with your argument against Christianity (that it has a lot of things in it that look like nonsense to an outsider, like Trinitarian Monotheism) is that it can be applied to a lot of different traditions that are quite popular in academia. Naturalistic explanations for philosophy of mind, modern ethical theories like contractarianism and consequentialism, postmodernism, and pretty much anything that comes out of political science all include elements that, from an outside perspective, look entirely nonsensical. Yet the brilliant minds within those frameworks spend a great deal of intellectual time and effort defending them from criticism (if they bother to acknowledge that the criticism exists).

      You don't have to be a Thomist or a conservative to understand that intellectuals who happen to believe in wrong ideas for whatever reason can come up with elaborate sophistries to justify their worldview. On this, your and Dr. Feser are in agreement (insofar as you acknowledge the "intellectual time and effort over the centuries inventing... solutions" to the various paradoxes in Christianity). He naturally believes that intellectuals that are opposed to his Aristotelian-Thomism (and in particular, those intellectuals whose views fly in the face of common sense) are the ones spinning sophistries. After all, his entire body of work is dedicated to exposing these sophistries and bad arguments. If you want to use such reasoning against him, you'd have to dedicate a similar amount of effort to exposing the supposed sophistries of Christianity, and that's harder than merely asking "Why did God allow this bad thing to happen?"

      Delete
    3. @Geo

      WCB thinks this is an "argument".

      A "god" who could act to eliminate moral evil and does not act to do so, acts as a moral agent. Just not a good one.

      This is at best a question begging logical and argumentative fallacy at worst it is gibberish.

      A friend of mine named Mark wrote the following satirical response to WCB.

      "A Davies reader who could act to read Brian Davies and does not act to do so, acts as a Davies reader. Just not a good one".

      Says it all.....

      >The problem with your argument against Christianity...

      The problem is he is not offering thoughtful good faith counter arguments against Christianity.

      He doesn't care. He just ignores thoughtful criticism and repeats himself. I have had his ears pinned to the wall over the last few months arguing with him over this and now trolling is all he has left.

      Postmodernists as was mentioned on some other thread by some truly brilliant person denies truth is real. So one can expect rational discourse will be abandoned by its proponents in favor of propaganda and mere rhetoric.

      Hence the modern news establishment.

      Cheers.

      Delete
    4. WCB writes:

      Brian Davies - The Reality Of God And The problem Of Evil

      Many modern logicians tell us that to say that something exists
      is to say that a first-level predicable truly applies to something
      or other - that, for example, 'Cats exist' is true if' is a cat'
      is truly affirmable of some object or individual. Yet 'badness' is
      not the name of any object or individual. So, going by the analysis
      just noted, it cannot be said to exist.

      Page 173

      Yes. Davies really wrote that. "sophisticated' theology in action. Badness is not an object like a cat so it doesn't exist.

      Monty Python - In Search Of The Holy Grail

      ARTHUR: This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheeps' bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.

      And ya'Kov still did not deal with the problem

      A God that could act to end horrendous moral evil and does not act to do so, acts as a moral agent, but not a good one.

      WCB

      Delete
    5. You will never get Ya'kov to reply in a clear, concise and logical manner. He will either ignore you or produce acres of inpenetrable blathet, peppered with insults.

      Delete
    6. "A Davies reader who could act to read Brian Davies and does not act to do so, acts as a Davies reader. Just not a good one".

      Of course!!!

      Delete
  29. From WCB

    What Do Philosophers Believe?
    David Bourget and David J. Chalmers
    April 27, 2013

    8. God: atheism 72.8%; theism 14.6%; other 12.6%.

    In this survey, only 14.6% of professional philosophers were theists. I suspect that the
    13.6% were mainly agnostics. Several well known surveys over the years have shown a high
    percentage of scientists were also atheists. These professions depend on critical
    thinking skills and so this should not be a big surprise.

    As a confirmed atheist, this gives me confidence that I am in good company. And it all
    encourages me to think critically about religious claims and propositions.

    Talk softly and carry a big clue stick.
    WCB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's rather self-congratulatory, isn't it?

      Delete
    2. "8. God: atheism 72.8%; theism 14.6%; other 12.6%."

      What, precisely, does this fact (which I have no reason to disbelieve) show apart from some demographics?

      " Several well known surveys over the years have shown a high percentage of scientists were also atheists. These professions depend on critical thinking skills and so this should not be a big surprise."

      I see what you see in terms of the demographics. I also agree that, in principle, scientific professions depend on "critical thinking skills". But again, even with this agreement, is this an actual argument for something? Or, to put it another way, what am I supposed to conclude regarding the truth of theism based on the fact that most people in a certain class say they reject it?

      I think that seeing what company you're in might have value in showing where your view stands in relation to others, but it by itself brokers no issue.

      What I say is just as true as if the percentages were flipped around.


      Delete
    3. WCB write:

      It demonstrates that professions that demand intellectula skepticism and honesty have low rates of religious believers.



      The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
      - Richard P. Feynman

      Rationalization, and motivated reasoning are the mothers of self delusion.

      WCB

      Delete
    4. Seeing the pathetical treatments of the classical arguments by professional philosophers that Dr. Feser showed before* or the bad objections offered even to modern arguments like Dr. Craig version of the Kalam or the fact that a ridiculous worldview like naturalism is still popular, i don't see why demographics have any force here. Might as well ask the bunch of "skeptic" losers on Youtube what they think.

      The professionals are normally as incapable of transcending the group mentality as the normal person. Since naturalism is more useful to justify the current social organization, it ends up being more popular, that is all*.

      The average liberal atheist this days can easily point how the catholic church importance on the middle ages or evangelicalism on the american right today have their place because of how useful they are, but they can't question their values even after seeing every megacorporation, politicians, celebrities etc parroting their views on inclusion, secularism, freedom etc. That is sad.


      *i do not mean by that than there is no truth or other stupid conclusion, but that non-rational conclusions have their part on what is considered truth on the city of man is not only a fact but a expected phenomenon if the christian worldview is right, seeing places like Romans 1 or the average non-believer on Scripture

      Delete
    5. "It demonstrates that professions that demand intellectula skepticism and honesty have low rates of religious believers."

      It doesn't show that. What it shows is that SOME professions at SOME point in time have a preponderance of atheists. This fact by itself, so what?

      The 72.8% is a fraction. What precisely is the denominator? Some subset of people in philosophy who responded? Or is it more restrictive, taking into account people who have actually studied the issue with seriousness? For example, I've known a few people in the sciences and philosophy who are staunch atheists, but their background and knowledge of the debate is quite poor and is minimal in comparison to the dogmatism. Are these people in both the numerator and denominator? Would a philosophical and theological know-nothing like Dawkins be part of the fraction, say?

      Likewise, I've known continental philosophy people who (despite being in philosophy) haven't studied the issue either. Yet they're atheists. Are they part of the numerator and denominator?

      What about people like me who while having terminal degrees in fields other than philosophy proper still dabble in one or two analytic philosophy topics? Etc.

      What are the social factors and pressures on peoples' ideologies? What are the self-selections going on in these sorts of circles? Universities and academia have their own pressures to conform to certain views.

      I could (say) point to English philosophers in (say) the 17th century and say [[high %]] of them were theists. You'd rightfully say: ok, so what? And you'd ask why I privilege England back then to (say) our more secular world today.

      "Rationalization, and motivated reasoning are the mothers of self delusion."

      We're all in the mire together on this. There is no privileging of atheism or theism or whatever here. Internet atheists and evangelical skeptics need to drop the schtick where they act like they have the monopoly on intellect, careful thought, and critical thinking, acting as if their objections are something new, novel, gotcha, and zomg nobody's ever thought of that before.

      In closing, if the idea of citing these sorts of percentages is supposed to make me say something like "Wow, a high percentage are atheists. I should change my way of thinking about theism vs atheism" then such an attempt doesn't do so. FWIW there are some knotty problems in Christianity, and they're worth discussing and I can say they prima facie give some points to the skeptics. But sociological observations are not in the class of knotty problems.

      At any rate, I'm probably done on this point, and you're welcome to a last word. People can decide for themselves. Take care.





      Delete
    6. (The "*" on "before" should be ignored, i forgot that one)

      But really, the idea that what determines what is true for a given society is only rational reasons is just silly. Even actually inteligent atheists like the ones you find on some radical-leftist circles know that. Mr. Geocon here is probably not a leftist but he understood that one.

      Why is this hard to admit when the popular values are the ones that we agree with? Dr. Feser does helps answer that one here and in other places. Seeing the answers that he is getting, he hitted where it hurts. From probably the most interesting atheist:

      "But I shall bring your secrets to light; therefore I laugh in your faces with my laughter of the heights. Therefore I tear at your webs, that your rage may lure you out of your lie-holes and your revenge may leap out from behind your word justice."

      Delete
    7. Eric and the Disciple* win the internet today with their keen analysis. Well done boyz.


      *the word "Talmid" is Hebrew for disciple. Who else caught that but me?

      Delete
    8. Talmid,

      "Probably not a leftist"

      For clarity, while I am a political eclectic, I identify as "right-wing", if for no other reason than the fact that no leftist movement would accept my views.

      Delete
    9. So Talmid, Mr 'Taliban' Geocon is 'probably not a leftist'. No shit Sherlock - go to the top of the class!

      Delete
  30. Thanks for an enjoyable article professor, I'll give my best shot at raising an issue/question, even though I agree with the article. Just trying to imagine a possible objection and see a rebuttal.

    A lot of what you've written seems to hinge on the idea of common sense, as mentioned here: "What is difficult is cutting through the enormous tangle of sophistries by which modern thinkers have obscured our view of what was clear enough to intellects like those of Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus and the like. You have to deny vast swaths of common sense (concerning matters like causality and teleology, for example) in order to get skepticism about these things off the ground. Less intelligent and well-educated people find it harder to do that, which is why they are less likely to reject traditional morality and religion. It takes a high degree of intelligence to develop narratives and theories that not only defy common sense, but make it seem reasonable to do so."

    I know it's cliche, but haven't the modern natural sciences given man enough epistemic grounds to perform this sort of denial of "vast swaths of common sense", since their models of the world frequently, in whole and/or in part, depending on the particular branch/model, fly in the face of common sense?

    Could I say something like:
    “Given the methods and success of science, there seems to be no reason to doubt the possibility of a philosophical system which borrows science’s methodology of taking a starting point by hypothesizing some denial(s) of common sense, and which consequently successfully yields a superior conception of “the good life” (so known to be superior by its fruits). Therefore, it is rational to purse the proposal and development of philosophical systems which defy common sense, to probe and refine and explore them in hopes of one day arriving at one such superior philosophy which is more efficacious than all prior in producing good philosophical fruit.”

    Thoughts/problems with this?

    My own thoughts: the picture of science methodology as obsessed with denials of common sense in order to achieve progress is misleading/incomplete.

    In fact, in actuality science epitomizes taking a common sense idea and running hog wild with it. Science takes arguably the most common sense idea conceivable - the existence of pleasure/pain - and orients itself toward the maximization of the former and minimization of the latter, whether indirectly or directly, e.g. developments in physics bring more pleasure by giving affordable refrigeration to even the poor so they can enjoy ice cream, developments in transportation create ways of distributing goods quickly so desires are fulfilled more easily, medicine developed anesthesia so surgeries are much more pleasant than 100 years ago, the Standard Model posits quantum tunneling which allows the computer I’m typing on to work and gives me the pleasure of spreading my wisdom to the unwashed masses and the unwashed masses the pleasure of reading my wisdom, etc.

    So science only uses denial of common sense in its probings and inquiries as a tool, to be used in total servitude of the common sense idea that pleasure and pain cannot be doubted.

    Science, in ironic contradiction to the philosophy of the physicalists who worship it, affirms and worships common sense.

    A worthy response?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Red

      What a bizarre idea you have that science takes the most common sense idea - the existance of pleasure/pain - and orientates itself towards the maximisation of the former and minimization if the latter . You list a whole bunch of technologies in support of this contention.

      Of course, science constructs models of the world ( in the hard sciences highly mathematical ones ) which are neutral with respect to human concerns, and it is humans who then use the mastery over nature so gained to create technologies which may cause pain, degredation and destruction, just as well as their opposites. You are just dead wrong that science per se is somehow directed towards human flourishing and happiness.

      We know from our science that at a fundamental level the world does not work on 'common sense' principles, and it escapes me why anyone would imagine that a correct metaphysics would necessarily do that either. We have to discover through experiment, model building and testing, and philosophical inquiry how the world is structured, and if that does not conform to the common sense of the masses that's just too bad, and would not be at all surprising frankly. Feser's lauding of common sense in the psychological and sociological world just reflects his unthinking pre- theoretic biases and prejudices.

      Delete
    2. Red
      The trouble with 'common sense' is that it is not all that common.
      From my perspective, what is common sense in believing in an imaginary non-corporeal entity that answers prayers?

      That's not common sense. That's nonsense.

      Delete
    3. Well at least Red is trying to make a go at answering philosophy with philosophy.

      I'll leave it to other serious philosophers to evaluate it.

      The rest of the Gnu Plebs just repeat the same nonsense over and over and over and over....

      Delete
    4. Son of Yakov

      Can't resist your little dig with the 'Gnu Plebs' can you, you odious little Thomist TWAT.


      Delete
    5. Anonymous,

      Nothing you wrote contradicts what I wrote, perhaps it is my fault for not being clear.

      "Of course, science constructs models of the world ( in the hard sciences highly mathematical ones ) which are neutral with respect to human concerns, and it is humans who then use the mastery over nature so gained to create technologies which may cause pain, degredation and destruction, just as well as their opposites."

      Nothing I wrote explicitly denies this. Reread what I wrote, with a particular focus on the term "orient". Think of "orient" in an epistemic sense, and not an ethical one. I realize I may have been confusing with the example of providing refrigeration to the poor - the point was not that they're poor. All that matters is the experience of pleasure/pain as a verification of a scientific model's truth.

      When I say "orient" in an epistemic sense, I mean that, for instance, I don't see people suggesting a revival of Newtonian mechanics in the interest of solving the problem of the rate of expansion of the universe. Why not? Because more robust models have proven more successful in producing technologies which surpass the technologies produced by Newtonian mechanics (say GPS which wouldn't function correctly without general relativity). And why do we accept the model of general relativity over Newtonian mechanics? Because the technologies are in some way (hence, I used the qualifiers "directly or indirectly") more conducive to increasing some pleasure. In GPS's case, you can now navigate with less stress in your car, or you can find new restaurants to try out near you when you're in an unfamiliar area, or whatever. These may only be indirect pleasures brought about by the model of general relativity, but they are nonetheless absolutely traceable to it.

      So attempting to explain dark energy by returning to Newtonian mechanics is manifestly a step backward.

      That's what I mean by "orient" - simply, that science builds and improves on itself, and the standard for knowing what qualifies as an improvement is if a new model is more efficacious than previous ones in producing some result which can bring about an increase in pleasure/decrease in pain.

      You might think "ok so what about, say, the current cosmological model? You don't believe in the Big Bang? There is no technology which the model could possibly be useful for in producing some such technology, but the evidence posits the model, so your picture of science makes no sense."

      To which I would respond, the Big Bang is, crudely speaking, the result of stitching together different models from particle physics and astronomy, which models themselves HAVE produced some such technologies. Hence, acceptance of the model of the Big Bang, until a better theory comes along, is justified on my account. For example, the CMBR is evidence for the model, and the CMBR in turn is reliant on our theory of light, which is incorporated in the Standard Model, which successfully produces technologies serving to verify it.

      "You are just dead wrong that science per se is somehow directed towards human flourishing and happiness."

      I didn't say anything about human flourishing and happiness, but probably this is related to my lack of clarity earlier about epistemic vs ethical orientation.

      Thanks for the comment, helped clarify my thoughts to myself as well.

      Delete
    6. Red 9.18PM

      I am afraid that your thoughts are fundamentally in error.

      We accept General Relativity over Newtonian Mechanics because it explains various phenomena that are inexplicable on the older model, and in a quantitatively very precise and varifiable ( and varified! ) way too. I am thinking of the perihelic procession of orbits, gravitational lensing, gravitational red shift, frame dragging and so on. It has absolutely nothing at all to do with technological applications, let alone its ability to increase human pleasure and decrease pain! If general relativistic effects were so weak that GPS was not possible, physicists would still accept the General Theory of Relativity because of its superior explanatory power over Newton's ideas.
      And reverting back to Newtonian mechanics to explain dark energy would not just be a step backwards , but incomprehendably idiotic too, not because GR contributes to human happiness, but because Newtonian mechanics is an eclipsed physical model which has no relevance at all to explaining dark energy!

      You are just dead wrong in asserting that the standard of knowing what qualifies as an improvement in science is ' if a new model is more efficacious than previous ones in producing some result which can bring about an increase in pleasure/decrease in pain'. To use your own example again, your theory implies that GR was not an improvement in gravitational physics until GPS technologies were developed well over half a centuary after its publication by Einstein. That is clearly nonsense.









      Delete
    7. red

      As a PS, please note that on your account GR is still not an improvement over Newtonian mechanics and never will be ( given the weakness of general relativistic effects in our terrestrial environment ) as its efficacy in producing results which can bring about an increase in pleasure/decrease in pain is virtually nill, whereas that of Newtonian mechanics is well nigh infinite.

      Delete
    8. red

      PPS!

      Actually, what I said above is not correct is it, as mathematically GR encompasses Newtonian mechanics and so reproduces all its results. However, you would have to claim that it is still only a vanishingly small improvement over Newtonian mechanics as its additional contribution to increasing human pleasure/decreasing pain is so relatively slight.

      Delete
  31. There is a good deal of rancour and unhappiness that Feser expresses with the modern world. It is worrisome that he finds so much wrong with the world he lives in, a misfit, a person so uncomfortable in the intellectual clothes he wears, a rebel without a clue. I worry about his health. Certainly he provides no answer to what he perceives as a problem. Rather, he rails against all, indiscriminately, against everything. Perhaps he ought to revisit his seemingly intractible reliance on Thomism and the rather jejune rendition of his overblown belief in imagining the answers to today’s issues are to be found between the musty pages of the ‘natural law’. After all they are ancient writings from an ancient mind on they perceive were the problems of their day.

    Feser:

    “Why are so many intellectuals seemingly hell-bent on trying to shatter ordinary people’s belief in God, free will, morality, and the like?  Here’s one possible reason.  People who believe in these things tend to be happier than those who do not. “

    This is a misrepresentation of the TIMES article. While the article notes that religious ties might make people more happy than do those that have no religious ties, that link is largely correlation, not causation.

    If one takes the time to read the article one soon discovers that it is not so much what you believe but the ‘groupiness’ of religion, the collective identity that has the greatest effect on happiness and well-being:

    “When it comes to religion and spirituality, it may not be what you believe or how you believe it that protects you from unhappiness so much as the fact that you believe at all—and that you practice those beliefs with other people.”

    It goes on:

    “Scientists have long known that having strong social ties is one of the greatest guarantors of happiness. Religion isn’t the only social tie that binds…”. And, “Without that sense of community, religion may not be as strong a protector against unhappiness.”

    The most telling aspect of the article is:

    “In a 2011 paper that analyzed self-reports from hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, researchers found that the connection between religious faith and happiness was strongest among people living in difficult conditions—fear, poverty, hunger.”

    What this finding infers is that when people are living hand-to-mouth, in desperate living conditions with little prospect of digging yourself and your family out of that existential hole. people turn in desperation to the only thing left; to believe somebody, something, ‘out there’, is looking after them. It is not the ‘truth value’ of religion that have them clasp onto the hope but rather its salvific nature. As they say, nothing makes a stronger convert than the hungry and the desperate.

    TO BE CONT:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Papalinton,
      I believe that humans do not need special revelation from God to know that murder is wrong. Do you believe that also? If so, you believe in natural law, at least in a minimal but important sense (a sense that Karl Barth and other divine command theorists have denied).

      Delete
    2. Tim Finlay

      As a reasonably well socialised and empathetic individual I find murder to be repugnant, and of course we could not run any kind of society - let alone a stable and contented one - if murder was sanctioned and widely practiced. But these are facts about my psychology and politics respectively, and say nothing about the absolute moral status of murder.

      As a naturalist I see morality as arising from the evolved psychology and sociopolitical activity of humans, so would argue that murder is neither right or wrong per se. However, for obvious reasons most humans will feel strongly that it is 'really' wrong, and that intuition will be incorporated into legal codes.

      So I completely agree with Papalinton's rejection of the ancient 'musty pages' of the natural law. Some aspects of your natural law tradition will seem intuitively 'right' to most people ( eg the prohibition against murder ), but others completely absurd ( eg principled rejection of artificial birth control ). We will not be constrained by it in constructing our social world.

      Delete
    3. Unknown at 12:14 p.m.
      Your view--that murder is neither right or wrong per se--is precisely the type of position that Ed was characterizing as could only come from an intellectual, not from an average man or woman with common sense.
      And it is an extremely frightening view.

      Delete
    4. Tim Finlay: "...is precisely the type of position that Ed was characterizing as could only come from an intellectual, not from an average man or woman with common sense."

      This is a very silly statement to make. The average man or woman with any common sense would clearly understand that murder per se was neither right nor wrong, and still understand that murder is repugnant. That's if they had any common sense at all. I'm pretty sure the average man or woman with common sense can walk and chew gum at the same time. They would not be phased with what intellectuals opine understanding they're looking at it at an intellectual level. The average person with a modicum of common sense knows the difference between murder, killing, homicide, justified homicide, self-defence etc, and that the taking of a life is largely determined by social context and the law.

      So to imagine that the average man or woman with common sense doesn't know the difference is to short sell their intellect, short sell their capacity for comprehension, short sell their integrity; and dare I say it, egregiously short sell the very thing you claim they have, common sense.

      So the upshot with Feser's diatribe against 'intellectuals', is to hand feed the average man and woman, despite their having common sense, that he alone is the arbiter of the badness of intellectuals, because the average man and woman is incapable of exercising their 'common sense' for themselves.

      So your rationale, Tim Finlay, is a very poor attempt at apologetics on behalf of Feser's "Burn As You Learn" modern day auto-da-fé.

      Delete
    5. >The average man or woman with any common sense would clearly understand that murder per se was neither right nor wrong, and still understand that murder is repugnant.

      That is just straight up psycho from somebody who has the nerve to accuse Feser of auo-da-fe.

      Wow Paps not only have you not improved you have devolved.

      Murder is always evil. What do you do with psychopaths and sociopaths who do not find it repugnant or sadists who find it pleasurable? If it is not wrong in and of itself then you cannot condemn it and merely finding it "repugnant" is mere aesthetics. Like not liking the new Star Wars trilogy(which is shite btw).

      Years ago Paps I seem to recall over at Dangerous Minds you argued it was "wrong" for theists to claim Atheists are immoral.

      Yet here you are championing it? This is the world ye want for yer grandkids?

      I mean fecking wow!!!!

      Delete
    6. As usual, Yako is off beam at 12.40AM, berating and bullying Papilinton for the metarthical perspective outlined by Unknown at 12.14PM. His silly comments reveal him to be a poor philisopher - just a conveyor belt for his religious indoctrination and received wisdom really - though an exploration of this will have to wait a good while ( at work now ). I just wanted to echo Papilintin's concern for Feser's state of mind, given his rancour and unhappiness with the modern world. He is also highly obsessed with other peoole's sex lives , seeing perversion and disorder everywhere. One wonders what his own sex life is like and whether he would benefit from seeing a therapist.

      Delete
    7. Actually, it's the opposite. Son of Ya'kov and Tim are quite sane. Whoever claims that murder "is not wrong per se" should be murdered on sight. It would solve their problems, and stop causing their psycho/sociopathic behavior. Papalinton is probably old, so it's no wonder he's having senile view, but Unknown and Anonymous have no such excuse.
      Though, given how many letters the last Anonymous typed bad, he should consider giving up alcohol as well.

      Delete
    8. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  32. CONT:

    When Walsh, the author notes:

    “Think of it as scientific proof of the old saying that there are no atheists in the foxhole.”

    This statement isn’t an argument against atheists, it’s an argument against foxholes. We would do well to make sure that everyone in our community is looked after.


    The article well documents that being in the majority also matters significantly. Walsh goes on:

    “In fact, Gallup data shows that some of the happiest nations in the world—Nordic countries such as Denmark and Sweden, which perennially score high on well-being—are comparatively abundant in atheists. Being completely unreligious—and presumably not worrying much about any kind of afterlife—didn’t seem to stop them from enjoying this life.

    “If religion provides a kind of existential security in poor countries, the welfare state may do the same in rich ones. The comparatively low levels of inequality in those unreligious Nordic nations likely play a role too.”


    “The idea that happiness should be the goal of religion is a fairly recent one, and it would have been unrecognizable to the stern Protestants who landed on Plymouth Rock, who believed that the point of existence was the glorification of God—not human happiness.”


    Walsh finishes:

    “Happiness in this worldview isn’t just a possible by-product of religion—it’s practically a duty. But maybe this isn’t about religion so much as it is about those underlying cultural values”.

    So to pretend that this article in its totality is primarily about about religious belief being synonymous with happiness and well-being, is a somewhat dishonest and misleading conclusion to make.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Call the nurses. Papalinton, in his retirement home, has been left alone for too long on the library computer.

      Delete
  33. It might be helpful for some to remember that raw intelligence is simply not the only factor in play when it comes to what an individual ends up believing and doing throughout his life. His environment and upbringing as well as his passions/emotions all play roles that can pull him in one direction or another. Smart people are not Romulans or whatever.

    ReplyDelete
  34. "It is by virtue of our rational or intellectual powers that we are made in God’s image and have a dignity nothing else in the material world possesses."

    Right from this first assertion, you're making claims unsupported by reality. So, why, *exactly*, should any rational person waste time perusing your drivel?

    ReplyDelete
  35. WCB writes:

    Does Satan, devils and cute little imps have intellects and thus theological dignity "like nothing else in the material world"? Are they also made in the image of God? What does "made in the image of God" even mean?

    Asking for my cat.

    WCB

    ReplyDelete
  36. Dr. Feser, one of your best posts by far. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Hi Ed,

    Thanks for your article. I think your psychological portrait of intellectual vices is a fairly accurate one.

    Where I have trouble with your post is in relation to a claim you made, in a recent article in "Religions" titled, "The Thomistic Dissolution of the Logical Problem of Evil," that God is like an author, who "knows the story he has written by virtue of knowing his own mind." That seems to imply you believe that God knows what goes on in the world by planning it in his mind. Such a picture of God would seem to make him the author of our thoughts and volitions.

    I've written an online article on your metaphor of God as Author, and its implications for the problem of evil and also the doctrine of Hell. Here's the link: http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/god-as-author-and-the-problem-of-evil-a-response-to-feser/ .

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. VT

      Yer response is nonsense. There is no kind way to put it. Sorry mate but it is awful.
      Here is why I think that.

      >But even if we grant that God’s infinite, simple and unchanging mind is radically unlike our very limited, ever-changing and complex human minds, it is not at all clear why this difference would lessen (let alone obviate) God’s obligation to assist people who are in severe distress.

      As far as I can tell VT yer whole response is to ad hoc assume "somehow" God has A priori obligations to His creatures (for "reasons?") as the default but you never explain how this is possible? You just assume it? Davis did a solid job in all his writings explain why this cannot be the case given God's nature in Classic Theism.

      You just assume it without argument. Sorry but the burden of proof is on you to explain what constitutes moral obligations and fit Classic God too it without committing category mistakes.

      If you did so in Classic Theism the only rational or coherent conclusions you can come too is God is obligated to Himself alone and He never fails to fulfill His obligations to Himself making Him perfectly divinely moral.

      But in principle you can no more prove God is a good moral agent like maximally virtuous good creatures are moral agents anymore than you can prove God, because of His divine perfection and omnipotence, must be a good footballer.

      The later is as incoherent as the former.

      Also you call the Author Analogy an Analogy but you still treat it like an univocal comparison? Why?


      JK R can imagine fictional characters but she cannot make real people. Obviously Harry Potter in our reality cannot be said to have real free will since Harry Potter isn't real. He is at best a being of reason and imagination caused by the mind of JK.

      But the point of the analogy is within His own make believe reality he freely chooses to be a good boy vs Draco who chooses to be a ponce. As we imagine the story play out we imagine Harry and Draco are acting freely in their own world.

      We don't say JK sided with Hewhomustnotbenamed and then buggered off. That was Draco.

      JK unlike God cannot cause the wills of her imagined literary characters to will freely.

      God can but within the imagined world we can imagine they are acting freely.

      That is the point of the analogy/metaphor.

      Feser is not making a univocal comparison. Stop treating it as one.



      Mate sophistry is not a good look.

      Delete
    2. WCB writes:

      Aquinas follows Augustine in the belief God is outside of time. God then creates all timelessly, there is no past, present, future, to God, all is one Big Now. And as per Augustine, "Confessions - Book XI" creation is eternally happening and always has been.

      God if he creates, creates all as it is. There can be no A temporally causes B, then, C, then D. God decides that there will be an A, B, C, D, E.

      If God decides to create John who commits many horrendous acts of moral evil, it is God who decides that, John has no free will and does not get to choose anything.

      See Aquinas, Part 1 - Q22 - Providence. Part 1 - Q23 - Predetination, Part 1 Q24 - Book of Life, immanence, predestination. for more.

      This is known as The problem Of Theological Fatalism.

      Delete
    3. VT

      Do me a favor mate. Address me if ye respond. Ignore the wee gnu atheist troll.

      He keeps repeating the same shite over and over and over.

      Delete
    4. Vincent Torley

      As you will have discovered from his response to you at 9.44AM , Son of Ya'kov is rude, condescending and hectoring. May I suggest that he is the last person you would want to interact with despite his injunction to "address me if you respond". Yea sure, like you would go back for another kicking!

      Delete
    5. Hi Son of Ya'Kov,

      I'm really hoping for a reply from Ed. I think I understand his position better than you do.

      You write:

      "JK [Rowling] unlike God cannot cause the wills of her imagined literary characters to will freely."

      But Ed says (in his blog article, "Are you for real?", at http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/are-you-for-real.html ):

      "He is more like the writer who decides that the characters will interact in such-and-such a way. And so His being the ultimate source of all causality is no more incompatible with human freedom than the fact that an author decides that, as part of a mystery story, a character will freely choose to commit a murder, is incompatible with the claim that the character in question really committed the murder freely."

      Analogy of proportionality means exactly what it says: "A is to B as C is to D" (i.e. A:B = C:D), NOT "A is to B is similar to the way C is to D," because then we would need another analogy to explain that analogy.

      Delete
    6. Hey VT,

      "Analogy of proportionality means exactly what it says: "A is to B as C is to D" (i.e. A:B = C:D), NOT "A is to B is similar to the way C is to D," because then we would need another analogy to explain that analogy."

      I don't think this is right. Check out this from George H. Joyce's Principles of Natural Theology, page 249.
      "Analogy of proportion arises when two different things display distinct but similar relations. Thus we speak of a man being 'a pillar of the state' by analogy of this kind, because the relation which the man bears to his country is similar to the relation of a pillar to the building which it supports. So, too, we speak of a landscape as 'smiling,' when the beauty and fertility of a district makes Nature seem kindly and attractive in the same way that a smiling face will do, where persons are concerned. These are mere metaphors. But analogy of proportion may be real as well as metaphorical. It is real when the quality designated by the term is intrinsic to both analogates. Thus, we speak of 'sex' in regard to both animals and plants. The thing signified in the two cases is very different. But proportionally they are the same. There is a true analogy between sex in a vertebrate and sex in a dicotyledonous plant. So, too, we speak of the soul of a man, and the soul of a dog. It is only by analogy of proportion that the same term is employed of the indestructible spirit of man and the perishable vital principle of the brute. But, again, the analogy is real, not metaphorical."

      Ed also further defines it as analogy of proper proprotionality which has to do with the analogy being intrinsic to the beings that are compared.

      "The example of the analogy of proper proportionality whould be the predication of life to plants, animals, human beings, and angels. What makes the analogy in question here one of proper proportionality is, first, that life exists intrindically in each of the analogates (in contrast to the analogy of attribution); and secondly, that it exists formally in each of them.... By contrast, the form or nature of being alive is literally in plants, animals, human beings, and angels, despite their differences."

      I would argue that given these distinctions, A is to B is similar to the way C is to D still holds. Because there is a great different between how God is an author and how human beings are authors, despite their similarities.

      Delete
    7. I notice Daniel has done a lot of the heavy lifting here. Well done!

      VT writes:

      >I'm really hoping for a reply from Ed. I think I understand his position better than you do.

      I disagree with yer understanding. But I wouldn’t mind Ed chiming in and I can understand why you would rather engage Him. No bother man.

      >But Ed says etc etc etc......


      I don’t think that is how the traditional school understands Analogy of proportionality here God is like an author but not that God is exactly like an author. Indeed this looks like some analytical bs? Our dialectic requires we discuss the matter in terms of intelligibility not like the analytical school which tries to reduce philosophy to a mathematical formula. That approach my have some utility but it leads to fallacies of equivocation.

      God’s causality here is that He is causing this reality to really exist with all it's essential properties as real secondary causes like a fictional Author notionally causes (in a limited fashion) a fictional reality with its unreal imagined fictional properties & causes. But within each reality the real persons or the fiction person act freely in some manner.

      The freedom in the fictional reality is merely notional & imagined. It is not real and given JK nature hard determined so in a sense Draco cannot be anything but a puppet villain. But we imagine he is real in some real reality where he is really choosing freely to be a douche.

      JK cannot truly imagine real people and have them really exist as we exist now with real free will. JK is a human author not the Divine.

      God can and does causes things to exist as their First Cause and is the true first cause of their real secondary causes. The secondary cause of a free choice is a real choice made by the rational being exercising it.

      As someone who now rejects Molinism in favor of Thomism I see the relation between Divine Sovereignty/Divine Providence vs the true freedom of the Will as a Mystery to contemplate not a puzzle to solve.

      I have no reason to believe it is impossible for God to be the cause of my choices being free. I know my choices are truly free and thus I can blame myself alone for my own damnation or credit God alone for my salvation. That is the mystery.

      I can contemplate no conceivable formal contradiction nor reason any logical one in the above proposition given the Divine Incomprehensibility.

      Cheers.

      Delete
  38. Question about the imago dei here: it seems like the majority of contemporary biblical scholars affirm that the imago dei is understood in Genesis more along the lines of 'dominion' and 'kingship'; in the ANE 'image' would be largely synonymous with 'statue', so it seems like what the biblical authors are getting at is that man is made in the image of God in that men and women are to be 'statues' of God, God's representatives who rule over creation as his viceroys.

    You might think it is (partially) by virtue of intellect that it is possible for man to exercise this vocation (which I think is true); but I can't help but thinking the concept of imago dei qua rational soul is being seriously wrenched out of context here. I don't think that's likely to impugn the main thrust of this post, but here's my question: Supposing, as seems likely, Aquinas (and the rest of them) were off the mark vis-a-vis the imago dei, to what extent would this affect his theological anthropology more generally? Or, more simply, how would you respond to the charge that this (in all probability) isn't the biblical conception of the image of God? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Feser is a Catholic, so doesn't
      care if something is biblical or not. Have you read his article about the Thomistic dissolution of the problem of evil yet?

      Delete
    2. Anonymous at 9:46,
      You raise an important point--namely what biblical scholarship has to say regarding Genesis 1 and the image of God. A previous poster questioned the interpretation of Isaiah 14, and I think that the interpretation of that passage as referring to a fallen archangel is more unlikely than the traditional interpretation of the image of God as including intellect and will.
      In fact, there is far more debate among biblical scholars about the imago dei than what you imply. Among those who argue that the imago dei must be understood from some clue in Genesis 1, some hold to the dominion-bearers interpretation along the lines of your post, others like many Barthians see it as family or community relations as the image of God. But the same scholars that tell us that the imago dei must be explained by Genesis 1 say (correctly) that Genesis 4 is not interested in explaining where Cain got his wife. The Hebrew Bible frequently introduces topics without an introduction. The notion that the imago dei MUST be explained by clues in its context in Genesis 1 is unwarranted.
      What we can know about the image of God is that it is an aspect which is shared (at least analogically) by humans and God but which is not shared by the lower animals.
      There are some clues in the use of language and naming by humans in the garden, something done also by God, and language flows from rationality. As you point out, intellect is involved in the exercising of dominion also. In short, there is nothing in biblical scholarship which I would regard as undermining rationality as a core aspect of what makes humans in the image of God.
      The issue of Isaiah 14 is far less clear cut, in my opinion.

      Delete
    3. So the Catholic interprative principle is to always start with the literal meaning of a text as intended by the author. But that does not mean that the interpretation of this concept as a whole becomes restricted to what that author intended for the entire body of scriptures. And it also does not prevent future authors of scripture to build on this initial concept.

      And we can do this by taking scripture as a whole, such that the initial concept is built on by other authors, such as John, Paul, Sirach, and others. This is the cannonical approach to scriptural interpretation.

      So, Aquinas uses Paul to interpret the concept of Imago Dei in Genesis here:

      https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1093.htm#article6

      "On the contrary, The Apostle says (Ephesians 4:23-24): "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man." Whence we are given to understand that our renewal which consists in putting on the new man, belongs to the mind. Now, he says (Colossians 3:10): "Putting on the new" man; "him who is renewed unto knowledge" of God, "according to the image of Him that created him," where the renewal which consists in putting on the new man is ascribed to the image of God. Therefore to be to the image of God belongs to the mind only."

      Delete
    4. Hey Tim,

      Do you think Pope Benedict's canonical exegesis is becoming more promminent with scripture scholars?

      Cheers,
      Daniel

      Delete
  39. Daniel,
    I would say that the field of biblical scholarship is more fragmented now than ever. There is far less consensus or confidence about source critical analyses (J, E, P, D etc.). Since Brevard Childs and James Sanders in the 1960s, there has been quite considerable interest in canonical criticism of some sort that engages in holistic study of both Old and New Testaments (or First and Second Testaments) in dialogue with Jews and the Church Fathers. But there are also a host of postmodern methods which tend to dominate the Society of Biblical Literature lectures: Marxist perspectives, postcolonialist perspectives, gynocentric perspectives, you name it. There are also solid lectures on text criticism, Dead Sea Scrolls, philology, genres, analysis of the Versions, orthography, archeology etc but these are not usually considered "sexy."
    There are some positive trends: the Oriental Apostolic churches such as the Ethiopic, Coptic, and Armenian churches are more involved; natural law is becoming far more accepted, as it used to be, in Reformed circles now; and there is more emphasis on the final form of the text than of speculative sources or previous editions. I should point out that I do think that there is evidence in the Bible itself for editorial updates, appendices, superscriptions and doxologies added to earlier texts etc., so I am not against this type of scholarship in principle but that the focus was wrong earlier.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting.

      Perhaps fragmentation is an improvement over the hegemony once held by others?

      Delete
  40. From WCB:

    Mister GeoconMay 17, 2021 at 8:43 AM

    "I believe Dr. Feser already answered your question of why God tolerates evil in his article "The Thomistic Dissolution of the Logical Problem of Evil". Your point about Satan adds nothing to that."

    In that answer, Feser states he agree with Brian Davies, "God is not a moral agent".

    The problem here is this.

    If God (who is omnipotent) could act to eliminate horrendous moral evil, and chooses not to act to do so, than God does indeed act as a moral agent. Just not a good one.

    The entire basis of Dr. Feser's reply to Streba is based on easily debunked proposition. That proposition God is not a moral agent is self contradictory and incoherent. A God who acts or fails to act either way,acts as a moral agent.

    The other Brian Davies claim is that God owes us no moral obligations. Again, the Bible claims God IS merciful, Is Compassionate, IS just, Is fair and more. To be compassionate or merciful is to accept moral obligations to his creation.

    To ten try to escape into sophistries, we must take the Bible's claims allegorically, analogically, not in an anthropomorphical manner etc.doe not fly. The Bible here is clear and obvious.

    Theological Humpty Dumptyism is not an intellectually satisfying solution.

    Leviticus 19
    15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.

    The Bible gives us many examples of what these terms, fair, just, merciful, and compassionate mean.

    WCB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WCB,

      First, it's not self-evident that God is a moral agent just because He "acts." God does not act, He is Act. To reduce God to a moral agent would be to anthropomorphize Him. Second, why should we accept your interpretation of the Bible as legitimate? Why not interpret the Bible the way classical theists have traditionally?

      This is a case of you not actually addressing the arguments set forth by Feser and Davies. Therefore, there's no reason to accept your criticism as valid.

      Delete
    2. WCB writes:

      If God is act, and acts poorly, God is a moral agent. This is so self-evident that it is hard to see how one can deny that.

      The old "To reduce God to a moral agent would be to anthropomorphize Him." is utter nonsense. It reduces God to a series of incohenrent words without real meaning.

      Interpret the Bible like classical theists? Who will tell us with a straight face that when the Bible says A, B, C, or D and that is a problem for the theist that we must interpret if analogically, or metaphorically, or allegorically? As per Origen, Ambrose, Augustine, and other Humpty Dumpty sophists?

      No right thinking person can accept that intellectual nihilism. No word in the Bible, no concept, no proposition has any meaning any more except for some desperate theologian apologist's need for a half baked dodge of the moment?

      No atheist will follow theism into this utter intellectual nihilist rabbit hole.

      The theist claim God is good, perfectly good,the sources of all good in the Universe has to deal with the problem of Evil and cannot be said to be not that at all by some obscurantist theist. Sorry.

      Delete
    3. @Mister Geocon.

      See what did I tell ya gibberish.....this WCB ladd is smoking the wee postmodernist crak.

      >If God is act, and acts poorly, God is a moral agent. This is so self-evident that it is hard to see how one can deny that.

      Sure...right...whatever ya say ladd just put down the wee sharp objects yer holding. Nice ladd....

      At one point Dr. Dennis Bonnette was trying to talk to him and the wee ladd claimed Animals where morally good if they did good for their fellow animals.

      Animals are "morally good" according to WCB.

      He is trolling ya and his mind is mush.

      Also he just repeats stuff you say back at you. I am thinking essay bot?

      Cheers,

      Our Lady be with you guy.

      Delete
    4. Dear Professor Feser

      Could you intervene to reign in the house idiot Son of Ya'kov please , who despite his obsequious grovelling to you at every opportunity is still ignoring your recent injunctions against personal abuse and discussing trolls? Just read his attack on WCB above.

      Son of Ya'kov is clearly impulsive and unhinged, saying 'yes boss, you are the man' to you one second, then ignoring your wishes the next. It is deeply nauseating and destabalising to the discussion that this character is repeatedly able to get away with this behaviour without a peep of protest or criticism from yourself or his Thomist peers. ISN'T IT TIME YOU REIGNED THIS IDIOT IN PROFESSOR FESER??

      Delete
    5. @Mister Geocon

      I note the metaphor Feser uses for Hell here as a never ending schooling?

      We both know the true agony of Hell is the soul feeling the loss of the Beatific Vision of God which it craves by nature.

      But what is the second worst pain? I am thinking being made to see you are wrong completely and it is all yer fault alone for being wrong. Being wrong is not an honest mistake which can with ease be forgiven. It is the wrongness of willful malicious stupidity and the correction of it no doubt for someone trapped in burning pride must be worst than hot coals on the feet.

      For a proud person being corrected is worst then a mere punch in the noise or mere insult.

      I think it is what fuels the Postmodern lack of self reflection.

      Delete
    6. WCB,

      Both of your arguments beg the question against me blatantly. You stomp your feet saying "God is acting badly! And you must interpret the Bible the way I want to! You just gotta!"

      Until you get better arguments, I'm not going to respond to you on this issue.

      Delete
    7. WCB writes:

      If God could act and does not act to eliminate horrendous moral evils, God is not good. God could have eliminated original sin on day one. banished Satan and devils from Earth. Given all mankind a good moral nature, et al. The problem of evil is still a major theological problem. Theological fatalism. And no, "God is not a moral agent" is a failed argument.

      Do not respond to me, it is not as if your non-answers will be missed.

      WCB

      Delete
    8. Ya'Kov,

      I do not deserve to be called a hero for responding to crappy Internet posts.

      Delete
    9. Then I will merely say yer da man.

      Delete
    10. @WCB:

      "If God is act, and acts poorly, God is a moral agent. This is so self-evident that it is hard to see how one can deny that."

      Your first sentence is so stupid that one is entitled to think that the gray matter between your ears is just hardened cement. This is so self-evident to anyone that knows what the words actually mean, that it is impossible to deny it.

      Could God have created a world without evil? I imagine yes. It would also be a would without WCB. If you ask me, that would be a stark improvement over what we have, not having to endure your bovine bloviating and all. But then again, I would not be here either, so better not second guess God's providential plan. So next time you conjure up a scenario with a burning bambi (hmmm, roasted deer, sounds delicious) or a raped children, instead ask why God allowed and does allow WCB to commit evil acts when He could just say the word and poof! you are gone. That would at least convince us that you are trying to seriously grapple with the issue instead of bleating inanely. Until then, go back to your dolls or action figures and leave the adults alone. The entire Church, the saints in heaven and the Most Blessed Virgin are praying for you (if you feel a sudden rush of anger at reading these words, if profanities gush out of your mouth, possibly accompanied by a vile torrent of green filth, then please consult an exorcist).

      Delete
    11. @Grod,

      I vaguely remember a time when arguing with these people was actually challenging....

      Now their brains are mush like yer average YEC KJV only fanatic except without god belief.

      Cheers brother.

      Delete
  41. Daniel,
    In some ways, fragmentation is an improvement over the previous modernist hegemony but it comes at the price of absurd amounts of postmodern gibberish. Historical-critical analysis produced some good work, some bad work, and some very bad work, but it was not gibberish, and seldom was it completely bonkers (to use Prince Harry's revealing designation for the First Amendment).
    Here is a sample of scientific post-modern gibberish:
    "We can clearly see that there is no bi-univocal correspondence between linear signifying links or archi-writing, depending on the author, and this multireferential, multi-dimensional machinic catalysis. The symmetry of scale, the transversality, the pathic non-discourse character of their expansion: all these dimensions remove us from the logic of the excluded middle and reinforce us in our dismissal of the ontological binarism we criticized previously" Felix Guattari.
    If you want nonsense from someone held in high regard by some of theological colleagues in the SBL, how about this: "Is E=M c squared a sexed equation? Perhaps it is. Let us make the hypothesis that it is insofar as it privileges the speed of light over other speeds vitally necessary to us." (Is this the relevancy fallacy at play again, in addition to it being complete balderdash?)
    Or we can have Jacques Lacan, again a figure quoted in postcolonial Biblical Studies, saying that the erectile organ symbolizes the jouissance and is equivalent to the square root of -1.
    This again is the stuff that could only be said, and promoted, by intellectuals, not by people of common sense.

    ReplyDelete
  42. The quote about the speed of light being a privileged speed was from Luce Irigiray.
    Michel Foucault, another favorite of postmodern biblical studies claims that the truth of an epoch has not authority outside the power-structure endorsing it and that there is no trans-historical truth about the human condition. When one asks if Foucault's statements themselves are true, one finds that they are self-refuting.
    I prefer the advice, "A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is 'merely relative' is asking you not to believe him. So don't."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WCB writes:

      Evolution has given us emotions. Even before animals had enough brain power to reason abstractly, they had emotions to help guide them. Fear predators, like food and sources of food.

      Humans have emotions. We hate being robbed, cheated, assaulted, raped or oppressed. We hate it when our families and friends are so treated. And of course we are delighted when good things happen to us. At bottom, all morality, good morality is based on evolution and the emotions it has given us.

      The problem is, we humans have also developed an ability to think abstractly. To develop ideologies, cultures, sub-cultures, religions, not all of then good.

      "We have to exterminate the Jews for the good of Germany and the world". We have to kill all the heretics. We have to send the counter-revoltionaries to the gulags to save the proletariat from them. Segregation now, tomorrow and forever.

      Abstract thinking that can give us bad excuses to do bad things is the enemy. The extreme post-modernists who tell us there are no absolutes, are full of it. and not the only ones.

      Where are you getting your abstract ideas? Careful skepticism in all is a duty. Including religion.

      WCB

      Delete
    2. These sorts of seemingly-obvious self-refutations are why I never understood and still don't understand the appeal of many "-critical studies".

      I have tried to sit down and read some Derrida, Lacan, and Foucault materials. It makes no sense to me. I've translated the New Testament from Greek, read some pretty high level mathematics and statistics works (of course), and have done my share of analytic philosophy studies, so I'm used to having to grind through things, learn terms, and slowly build up my knowledge. Yet with the po-mo stuff, I conclude that either (1) this material is forever beyond the reach of my intellect or (2) it is gibberish.

      When I've been able to talk with some po-mo adherents, usually the dense seemingly nonsensical wording gets reduced to a tautology or something trivially true, like "context is important". Well OK then, thanks for setting me straight!

      There's plenty of dense but meaningful stuff that I'm too old or lazy to really understand now, such as the finer points of Thomism, and I still have a few mathematical texts that I think would feel like scaling El Capitan, so there are things out there that have my number so speaking. But I can tell they make sense. Not so with much of the critical studies I've seen, just layer after layer of non-defined opaque terms and convoluted sentences.

      (At least the higher criticism of the Bible in the 18th and 19th centuries made sense, even though it gives off a handwavy vibe and throws glib assertion after glib assertion at the student as if some sort of argument has actually been made.)

      Delete
    3. Eric, you and I are largely on the same page.
      There are many sentences in postmodern thought which either can be interpreted as saying something which is trivially true, or as something which is very interesting but patently false. Historical-critical interpretation--for all its glib assertions about rejecting miracles or genuine prophecy etc.--was frequently good at examining the minutia in the text (and some larger scale features such as generic similarities and chiastic structures etc.) and expounded details seldom found in early and medieval Christian exegesis which can complement said exegesis. Historical-critical scholars sometimes got the forest wrong, but you learned much about individual trees in the forest that you would not have known otherwise. The great rabbinic scholars of the Amoraim, Geonim, and Rishonim periods likewise produce numerous brilliant insights into the Hebrew texts that are perfectly compatible with Christian theology.

      Delete
    4. Some of my older conservative commentaries explicitly credit the more liberal higher critics as doing useful stuff. So yes, as you say, they got individual trees right, even if they got the forest wrong.

      BTW, I still find the conservative nineteenth century parries of the acidic higher critical attacks valid today, e.g. Lightfoot and Westcott on the authorship of the fourth gospel, or William Henry Green's defense of the essential unity and Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. (And RK Harrison's massive OT tome as well giving a sober look at the OT writings.) The classical arguments seem more bypassed than ever actually having been refuted.

      Delete
    5. Hey Tim,

      "In some ways, fragmentation is an improvement over the previous modernist hegemony but it comes at the price of absurd amounts of postmodern gibberish. Historical-critical analysis produced some good work, some bad work, and some very bad work, but it was not gibberish, and seldom was it completely bonkers (to use Prince Harry's revealing designation for the First Amendment)."

      Agreed. I know Pope Benedict looks at it as a useful tool for a specific purpose, but limited. I'm glad we have his writings on the subject as the Pope, even though he does not put his writings at the level of magisterium. They are a breath of fresh air for canonical exegesis.

      I had red Father Raymond Brown and Joseph Fistmeyer in my early days. They were good at what they did, but it just seemed to me that they sucked the wonder and the grandure out of the texts and the possibility of the miraculous. The way they treated the infancy narratives was irresponsible. Why make a definitive proclamation on their historicity? What proof could they possibly have for or against their veracity? If the primary source was Mary herself, and she only shared those stories later on in the life of the early church, then she would likely have been one of the only sources for the information. Why doubt her words? And yes, they are this with theological overlays, likely from the gospel writers, but why doubt their theological work?

      Pope Benedict, in his Nazareth series did much to defend the faith perspective. Specifically with regard to the nativity.

      "I prefer the advice, "A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is 'merely relative' is asking you not to believe him. So don't.""

      Wise words.

      Delete
    6. Daniel,
      I learned much from Fitzmyer's commentary on Luke and Brown's work on the Infancy narratives but agree that many of their insights can be incorporated into a more conservative overall theology. Luke is actually a place where I think source criticism can be useful. In the prologue, Luke claims to have used earlier written sources and the testimony of eye-witnesses in compiling his account. The Greek of Luke 1-2 being different from the main Gospel may be partly accounted for if Luke was using a source deriving from Mary, as several scholars suggest. Luke likely did use Mark and a sayings source, either oral or written. To me, this does not detract from the inspiration or truth of the Gospel. By comparing Luke with the Matthew and Mark, we can see the special emphases that Luke wanted to get across in his theological biography/history. Nothing of this contradicts the Holy Spirit guiding the whole process.

      Delete
    7. Yes - there is no doubt that there is much value to the historical critical method. I was only briefly exposed to their work in my first years of university. Perhaps had I read other works of theirs, I might have better appreciated them.

      Delete
    8. I have only read a few short articles by Brown, but they seemed so utterly, and badly, skewed by a biased view and by a wretched theology that I could not imagine slogging through a whole book to glean a few insights (trees in the forest). Aren't there any GOOD scholars doing good critical analysis but without the bias and with sound, pure, Catholic theology?

      Delete
    9. I didn't bring up Fitzmyer and Brown; I was responding to Daniel; but I think that they have done some good work. Also, I am not Catholic and I don't think you have to be Catholic to do good biblical scholarship. Much scholarship has to do with structural outlines of books and passages, genre analysis, poetic analysis, characterization and all sorts of things in which it may well not matter whether the scholar was Protestant or Catholic. Brown's analysis of the various elements in the annunciation genre I found very helpful, for example. I know you specialize more in New Testament; my Ph.D. is in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.

      Delete
    10. Tim Finley

      Out of curiosity, what is your religious affiliation? I had always just assumed that you were a Catholic.

      Delete
    11. Anonymous at 4:10,
      I am an evangelical Protestant who agrees with Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics.
      Tony,
      Do you like any of the volumes in Pillar New Testament Commentary or New International Greek Testament on the Protestant side? They have much material that traditional Catholics would agree with. What about the Sacra Pagina series which is Catholic? Scholars like Daniel Harrington or Luke Timothy Johnson?

      Delete
    12. Tim Finlay

      That sounds very exotic, though I do not know if it is particularly. I appreciate that this is not the time or place, but one day it would be fascinating to hear why you are not a Catholic. You seem to be well informed and know your stuff, so I presume that it is for principled reasons.

      Delete
  43. Want to note that Harrison is 20th century, not 19th century. Bad syntax on my part connecting him with Lightfoot, Westcott, and Green.

    ReplyDelete
  44. If Christians would stop attacking all other belief in God, then society would not have become so atheist and godless. But you guys had to constantly shut down the Platonic academies, and persecute Platonists who were not Christian Platonists. Now your society is being destroyed by atheists as the Platonist society was destroyed by you. Is this a case of what comes around goes around, or however that saying goes? You can't claim, by the way, to be part of what you called an "Ur-Platonic Alliance" while teaching predestination, because the only "predestination" there could be in Platonism is the predestination to the particular reincarnation destintation you had in this life based on how you lived your last life. For that matter, calling oneself a Platonist while teaching a one-life model with physical resurrection as the end goal rather than a reincarnation model with going up to be with God or merge into him as the end goal, is an absurdity; except for the Christian mystics who do believe in reincarnation and merger with God, Christians are anti-Platonic all the while claiming to represent Plato, and teaching their evil predstination blashpemy. Its time to acknowledge that Platonism is the solution and Christianism is the problem, Feser.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's certainly a weird argument. Could you write it out more coherently?

      Delete
    2. I imagine he could write it out more coherently - if he had the space of a book, and required Thomists to accept premises that we are not prepared to accept without many books worth of further arguments.

      If Christians would stop attacking all other belief in God...

      If by "attacking" you mean
      (a) clarifying, as we do in the case of other monotheists who will not allow room for a Trinity; or
      (b) disambiguating, in the case of Mormons who say they believe in God but use the term equivocally; or
      (c) refuting, in the case of pagans who believe in not just one god, but many; or
      (d) clarifying, in the case of pantheists in that they don't believe (sufficiently) in other things besides God,

      If that's what you mean by "attacking", then no, it will not do to say "stop attacking other "beliefs in God", for they are in error and lead to grave problems. Each of the heresies the Church put down she dealt with not merely because they were inconsistent with the faith given to the Apostles in their life with Christ, but also because they lead to bad morals, bad actions, etc. Ideas have consequences, and the consequence of really primary errors about God are really bad actions down the road. Muslims believe in an Allah who commands jihad against unbelievers. That's a consequence of the sort of God they believe in. We can't just accept it as "all one big happy family."

      Delete
    3. Miguel CervantesMay 18, 2021 at 5:08 AM

      Actually the worst thing about Islam is that it falsely claims God has ordered the Islamic unbelievers to wage war against believers (amongst others).

      Delete
  45. Frank Sheed 'Map of Life' very good on Intellect and Will - diagrams toward the end of the book. Good for simple people as I am.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Also I would like to add that for we simple souls a modification of DesCartes 'Cogito ergo sum' is 'I think therefore He Is.'.

    ReplyDelete