Saturday, June 26, 2021

A whole lotta links

At Substack, philosopher Michael Robillard explains how he left academia, and how academia left him.

Anna Krylov warns of the growing politicization of science, in the Journal of Physical Chemistry.  Nautilus on the sometimes contradictory scientific literature. 

At Rolling Stone, hear David Crosby sing Donald Fagen’s new song “Rodriguez for a Night.”

The Spectator on a new biography of Kurt Gödel. 

At the Claremont Review of Books, Joseph M. Bessette on Barack Obama’s latest memoir.

Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science, edited by William Simpson, Robert Koons, and Nicholas Teh, is now available in open access.

Joseph Trabbic reviews a recent translation of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s Philosophizing in Faith: Essays on the Beginning and End of Wisdom, at Catholic World Report.

The New Criterion on the triumph of Thomas Sowell.

Prospect on why George Berkeley was less radical than he seems.

The Guardian reports on a lost memoir that paints an unflattering portrait of John Locke.

Larry Chapp on D. C. Schindler on liberalism and integralism, at Catholic World Report.

Mark Regnerus on the privatization of marriage, at Public Discourse.  At The Spectator, Mary Harrington argues that a sexual counterrevolution is on its way.

Collider on the thirtieth anniversary of The Rocketeer.

Tyler Cowen says that economics is failing us, at Bloomberg.

The crises of the West.  At Substack, N. S. Lyons reflects on the upheaval in France and raises four big questions for the counter-revolution. 

The Guardian reports that Richard Dawkins has lost his Humanist of the Year title over trans comments.  Alexander Riley on the war on sex, at The American Mind.  Mary Eberstadt on the trans-kid craze, at the Claremont Review of Books.

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute rounds up some reviews of Sohrab Ahmari’s The Unbroken Thread.

Meet the new Journal of Controversial Ideas.  Robert Gressis comments at The Electric Agora. Also, Daniel Kaufman on twenty-five things everyone used to understand.

The latest at John DeRosa’s Classical Theism podcast: Christopher Tomaszewski on the immateriality of the intellect and modal collapse; W. Matthews Grant on free will and divine causality; Matthew Minerd on Garrigou-Lagrange and the principle of finality; and much more.

At Quadrant, James Franklin reconstructs Jesus Christ’s PhD dissertation. 

Michael Pakaluk on John Rawls and the rejection of truth, at Law and Liberty.

At YouTube, Gaven Kerr discusses classical theism and divine simplicity and Kerr and Ryan Mullins debate the divine nature.

The haunted imagination of Alfred Hitchcock, at the New Republic.

Philosopher Charlie Huenemann on the twilight of the idols of good writing.

Robert Royal on the late Jude Dougherty, at The Catholic Thing.

At Philosophical Studies, Ben Page on power-ing up neo-Aristotelian natural goodness.

On Pints With Aquinas, Janet Smith and Fr. Gregory Pine debate the ethics of lying.

David Noe and Jeff Winkle carry out an ongoing discussion about classical civilization at the Ad Navseam podcast.

“When you measure, include the measurer.”  The Spectator reports that MC Hammer defends philosophy against scientism. 

At Public Discourse, Matthew Berry on nominalism, nihilism, and modern politics.  Patrick Deneen on Michael Sandel and a tyranny without tyrants, at American Affairs.


  1. Robillard does not like what he sees as the tendency of "woke ideology" to bat other ideologies out the door.

    In response, then, he writes, "It is my hope that this essay will inspire others in academia, students and professors alike, to also begin speaking up loudly and vocally and to continue to speak up against this pernicious woke ideology until we bat it out the door of academia and society at large."

    A lot of batting out of a lot of doors.

    1. Indeed. That's a huge weakness of anti-woke academics like those in the ideological dark web. At some point, they'll have to come to terms that liberals in general and they themselves in particular are part of the problem they're trying to solve.

    2. It's the woke stupidity, stupid. (That's the point, the problem he wants to "bat out the door," right?)

    3. Aren't we always told we shouldn't tolerate the intolerant? That seems to fit the woke.

    4. Ejecting poison seems like a good idea. But why should we even need to? These white leftists keep telling us that their "whiteness" is the problem but they never cancel themselves. Hmmm. They never resign their positions of power. They never give away their material gains received illicitly "on the backs of black and brown people". Why do you suppose that is? Maybe they don't really believe themselves.

  2. With regard to the Schindler article, I like the way he divides up the four approaches to liberalism. I have to say, I'm deeply skeptical of the integralist approach though and favour the prophetic approach of speaking truth to power. Having said that, I think we have the charism of priest, king, and prophet and I think any approach to any government in history has to take into consideration those three marks. And even if we were to acheive some eutopian integralist society, sin prevents it from ever being perfect and abuses will proliferate. The entropy of sin, as he calls it. And the prophetic role will be required again and again.

    1. Daniel,
      I think you're misrepresenting/misunderstanding the alternatives here. The integralist approach is not utopian. It is theologically necessary. It certainly does not exclude the need for the prophetic, but the prophetic (understood as one of the alternatives to integralism) does exclude the need for the full (integral) working out of the internal logic of the Incarnation, in particular, in the political order -- and again, not in any utopian fashion, but as a matter of the basic obligation of ongoing human endeavor to promote the common good in truth, i.e., in a real, substantive, theologically-informed way, as opposed to the liberal way, which inherently eviscerates and trivializes any substantive, ethically-religiously-informed vision of the good.

      An important point: "Furthermore, the illiberalism we see erupting today, far from being an “aberration”, is the full-flowering of the procedural emptiness and metaphysical vacuity at the core of Liberalism which is only now coming into full view." -- Yup. That's what makes it fascinating to watch, in all its stupid ugliness.

    2. I meant utopean in a sense that it is unlikely to be a live option in most societies today. Certainly not in the Canadian or US context.

      I think option 1 should by now be obvious to everyone as unworkable. Liberalism is just caustic to religion in general.

      Option 2 is likely what we are stuck with at the moment along with option 4.

      Option 3, integralism, just seems to mandate that we have to start some sort of Catholic political party, which will totally marginalize us from the rest of society, or worse a catholic revolt of some sort. And that seems just crazy and unwinnable.

    3. C S Lewis put the kibosh on the idea of a Christian political party eighty years ago: And while the details of the essay are obviously out of date, the principles still apply.

    4. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus had literal connotations in the premodern world, but in more recent centuries has taken on a more nuanced meaning. Integralism has done the same.

    5. Interesting fifth option discussed at Crisis Magazine:

      Natural law libertarianism. Seems like something that could be appealing across various denominational and religious lines.

      And really, this seems most in line with church teaching. Most governments could work so long as it obeys the natural law.

    6. Daniel,

      Agreed. Natural law is a universal language to which anyone of goodwill can agree even if they would object if they thought it was Catholic.

      "Science will even admit the Ascension if you call it Levitation, and will very likely admit the Resurrection when it has thought of another word for it. I suggest the Regalvanisation." -- GK Chesterton

    7. Daniel,

      First, libertarianism is incompatible with Catholic Social Teaching, especially on economics. This should be obvious, though I will substantiate this.

      Second, this is the political path that conservatives have been (trying) to go down for years and it's basically indistinguishable from the Whig Thomists. Not only does it not count as its own camp, it's been clearly shown to be a total wash.

      Third, it's born of the loser's mindset - the mindset that government must always be left-wing. I've yet to find a good argument for why this must be the case.

    8. Mr Geocon,

      The inability to avoid reducing everything to political categories is kind of a problem, no?

      "libertarianism is incompatible with Catholic Social Teaching, especially on economics."

      However you want to parse the words (the Catholic Church doesn't have a teaching on economics, it has a teaching on morality), if you want to pretend that acknowledging that people have freewill and can make choices that are less than perfect is "against Catholic social teaching", I guess that's your prerogative as a person with freewill to make choices that are less than perfect.

    9. Hey Geocon,

      I do not reject integralism out of hand, but because it is impossible to implement in most societies. Even the article that Ed links to does not claim that integralism is a live option today.

      "Anyone who is looking at this point for a positive prescriptive proposal from Schindler on the exact contours of what his version of integralism would look like in practice will be disappointed. That’s because there is no such proposal nor should there be. Schindler is well aware that the realistic prospects for such a project to take shape are almost nil at the present moment or in the foreseeable future. And part of the insidious hegemony of Liberalism is that it also robs us of our imaginative capacity to envision a true, practicably attainable post-Liberal political alternative."

      So as far as I'm concerned, this is just a platonic excercise in imagining what a truly perfect society would look like, and no more. Perhaps it exists in heaven only under the one true King, Jesus Christ.

      Without a Catholic population that supports it, it is impossible. Here is a breakdown of religious affiliation in the U.S.

      Protestant (42%)
      Roman Catholic (21%)
      Mormon (2%)
      Unaffiliated (28%)
      Jewish (2%)
      Muslim (1%)

      Without Catholic bishops that support it, it is impossible. Can you provide even one bishop who espouses integralism? I'd be happy to read about it?

      Without Popes that support it, it is impossible. Do you know of even one post V-II Pope who might be integralist?

      Is there even one society that is truly integralist in the world today? Not a snarky question. I'm truly interested. At least we can see something that we could look up to as a possible roadmap.

      So rejecting integralism is not a loser's mindset, it is just facing reality. It is a reality that the first Christians also faced for the first three hundred years of Christian existence.

      What we need now is a political game plan with these realities squarely in mind and with the Christian Church of the first three hundred years as our exemplar. We need to look at Japanese Catholics who existed without priest or bishops or even the Eucharist for two hundred years. We have to look at Koreans who suffered brutal martirdom for their faith. Because that persecution is comming for us in the U.S. and in Canada. Our bishops need to prepare us for that political reality. Not some integralist Eutopia (practically speaking).

    10. Integralism: the belief that you can load up the shotgun and force everyone to get baptized.

      Mobilize all the force you can muster to convince the masses, but a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

    11. T N,

      The Church does have teachings on economics, and some of them are dogmatic insofar as they pertain to morals. Ethics is the science of how to live well. Part of ethics is political philosophy, which tells us how to govern well (since the government is an important part of life). And economics is the science of how to govern the market well, which makes it part of political philosophy and, by extension, ethics. The absolute separation of economics, politics, and ethics is a false one. Since the Church is qualified to speak on matters of morals, it’s no surprise that it has its economic doctrines as well. To give one example, libertarianism teaches that the unregulated free market always leads to the best outcomes while the Church teaches that the market ought to be subject to state regulations.

      I’ll also add that, besides libertarianism’s “purely economic” claims, it also has moral implications. Thus, it’s well within the Church’s right to say “that’s wrong!” Libertarianism claims that the purpose of the state is to merely protect the life, liberty, and property of the individual while the Church says that the state’s purpose is to fulfill the common good, which includes a lot more than what a libertarian would allow. Libertarian thought begins with the individual, while Catholic social teaching begins with the community. Libertarianism sees all state action as coercive and thus a necessary evil at best while Catholic social teaching sees such coercion as a positive good if used correctly.

      Finally, you present a dichotomy between being a libertarian and rejecting the belief that people have free will and make less-than-perfect choices. Do you want to substantiate this?

      Integralism: the belief that you can load up the shotgun and force everyone to get baptized.

      Mobilize all the force you can muster to convince the masses, but a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

      Libertarianism: the belief that sloth is an effective governing principle rather than a mortal sin.

      You can scream and cry about your freedoms all day. The Left will steamroll you regardless, and in the meantime, you’ll be a lead weight around the


      I never said rejecting integralism reflects a loser’s mindset. I said that libertarianism reflects a loser’s mindset. Most conservatives who’d otherwise happily use the state to put in place commonsense moral regulations choose to become libertarian because they have it in their heads that government = leftist. This is a contingent fact about modern liberal democracies (that they naturally tend to the left), but it’s not a fact about government in general, as we can see throughout all of history.

      I get the feeling you didn’t read what I wrote. I gave three complaints about “natural law libertarianism” – that it’s indistinguishable from Whig Thomism, that it’s been the losing strategy of Catholics for a long time (so it’s hardly “practical”), and it reflects the false assumption that the state must be left-wing. If you want to make a rebuttal, please respond to what I said.

      The Christians who had to survive persecution were not “natural law libertarians.” They didn’t have a “political game plan.” What they had was the Grace of God, moral virtue, and each other. That’s what we need right now. We ought not to put our faith in worldly princes, even if they happen to be libertarians.

    12. *libertarians will be a lead weight around any effective resistance to Leftism.

    13. So as far as I'm concerned, this is just a platonic excercise in imagining what a truly perfect society would look like, and no more.

      The height of practical wisdom is not to simply take note of the "possible" and make it happen. That is an undirected "progress". The height is found in understanding the true good, THEN understanding whatever stands as the closest approach toward the good can be attained, and achieving THAT. It is not utopian to recognize that a truly, WHOLLY sound and good social order on this Earth (while we still have original sin and inclination to sin) would be a confessional Catholic state, and yet work toward some lesser state because that lesser state is the best that can be achieved given the conditions we have to work with. But recognizing the best we CAN achieve requires also recognizing how it will fall away from the best simply speaking. So, it is part of practical wisdom to understand the best, first.

      Schindler's comments about Whig Thomists are cute and a little funny. They would be more valid if one could properly equate "The United States in its essence" with "Liberalism". But of course, they are not identical, nor was the United States, at its founding, merely Liberalism writ into real life. Some of the Founders had little regard for the likes of Locke, thinking him opposed to a true Christian society. And, of course, some elements of the Founding reflect real and valid social principles: not only does the Catholic Church now voice the necessity of subsidiarity in political matters, it is likely that the world might STILL be in general ignorance of it as a special concept had not the US federal / state organization not instantiated it in the concrete.

      It is not impossible, while supporting integralism generally, to urge that much might have been achieved to make of the US a non-confessional state better and more friendly to religion - especially, to Christianity - without requiring a fundamental revolution to re-write America.

      "Speaking truth to power" is ultimately as empty the assertion "absolute power corrupts absolutely": God is not corrupt.

      And the question here today is whether real prudence can perceive a probable way toward ANY reasonably sound, reasonably stable, reasonably wholesome state, by moving forward via incremental steps of improvement here and there as we work on details. Or whether all plausible pathways now toward a decent state - due to our degeneracy and disorder - run through pictures of war, disaster, revolution and the like. A mere 40 years ago, (say, at the beginning of the Reagan years), there was almost certainly SOME reasonable prospect of the former, and most of us probably thought the prospect was quite good. After finding that presidency's limitations, and 33 more years of jogging toward Gomorrah only with varying speeds forward, that prospect must be account much less likely, and indeed few who can correctly list the difficulties can also state ANY pathway with a plausible chance of success. Schindler, to his credit, is not claiming he can.

      If there was a war or revolution or the like that one could envision properly (and probably) a good social order, it might be moral to shoot for that pathway instead. But nobody of sound mind who has read of revolutions since 1789 can be very confident of such a thing.

    14. Mister Geocon,

      Yep – you are right. I was talking past you there. I should have paid closer attention to your post. In my defense, I don’t know much about libertarianism. I grew up a liberal in Canada where 39 percent of people are Catholics and 23% are protestants. Liberalism used to be the default party for Canadian Catholics until most Catholics lost their sense of moral direction and rejected the teachings of the church. Specifically for me, this comes down to sexual morality, contraception, and abortion. The Conservative party of Canada is a lose coalition of protestants, catholics, an fiscal conservatives. At the moment, I am deeply disillusioned with all political parties. I don’t know much about what libertarians stand for or what a natural law libertarianism might look like, other than a party that might champion the moral issues I’m concerned about.

      Your criticisms of libertarianism in your first post appear to be valid, I’d have to look into it more.

      With regard to this:

      “The Christians who had to survive persecution were not “natural law libertarians.” They didn’t have a “political game plan.” What they had was the Grace of God, moral virtue, and each other. That’s what we need right now. We ought not to put our faith in worldly princes, even if they happen to be libertarians.”

      Right. They didn’t have a political plan. They were not libertarians, conservatives, liberals, or integralists. They had zero political power until Constantine. That may be the reality we need to get used to. A social and political order that hates us and treats us as pariahs. Perhaps it is enough to pray the Our Father, and fervently seek our Father’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

    15. Tony,

      Every state is confessional in some way. Each lawmaker must make some metaphysical, moral, and theological assumptions whenever he makes law. If the lawmaker does not make those assumptions consciously, he'll make them unconsciously. Liberalism did not set these big questions of meaning and purpose aside to focus on economic questions, it merely relegated questions of meaning and purpose to the few and imposed them on the rest while claiming what it imposed was some sort of neutral default.

      While you're correct that some of the Founding Fathers disliked John Locke, not all of them did. Most notably, Thomas Jefferson was an avowed classical liberal. I understand that the Founders would've been considered positively reactionary in a modern context, but one must remember that they were to the Left of the British Empire at the time, and that empire was already a liberalizing force in the world.

    16. Hey Tony,

      I agree with your comments about having a sound integralist conception in general and using that as a guidepost to see what actions we can take to bring about that vision in our current situation. That makes sense.

      The rest of your post really expresses well the roadblocks to any progress I feel is there at the moment. Part of me hopes for another Fatima moment or some sort of parting of the red sea miracle that might infuse hope into this world again. We definitly need an infusion of grace to figure a way out of this mire.

      Great post Tony.

    17. Geo, I agree that there is no "neutral" basis on which governments (and political systems) form. And for that reason, a good state cannot pretend to be neutral about the basics. This is why I believe that even a pluralistic social order (already less than the highest ideal) needs to lean in favor of religion rather than non-religion, and toward Christianity more than to other religions. Interestingly, America did just that for more than 100 years, and its rejection of it was from contingent events that could have gone the other way while America remained America.

      Daniel, thanks for the support. I do believe that there is, at least with SOME degree of plausibility, a way out of this political mess without going through war / revolution / Diocletion-type oppression against Catholics. The greatest difficulties are probably (1) that of the people who are in a position to head up the actions needed to follow such a path, few indeed are truly right-minded about the issues to understand what needs doing. And (2) They would find it nearly impossible to persuade the large minority who want a political system friendly to (true) Christianity and Catholicism (at least as much as had been so 80 years ago, if not more) that they actually see the right pathway, and to stick with it through the undoubtedly difficult times ahead.

      Prayer and grace are, without doubt, necessary. I hope that the providential plan isn't "prayer and grace and the blood of martyrs", again. But it might be. I think that we are close up on the very cusp of a situation where the only way to avoid that would be nearly unparalleled graces in the public order to make bold and shocking changes. We are facing a dismayingly large number of disruptive changes being within easy reach in quite a short period: currency experiments blowing up, biotech oppression (e.g. the biochip embedded for personal ID), Chinese hyperdominance, and a dozen more. It is easy to see a storm of just 3 or 4 of them combining to bring down the current global order for something much worse. (Yes, or for something better, but those most ready to take advantage are not the forces for good.) I know God has it all in his good hands. My personal survival need not be part of that plan.

  3. I love Tyler Cowan. His podcast is a goldmine (though he is a clunky interviewer). In the linked article, he laments a lack of initiative and originality in economics today. True enough, but not just in economics. Contrary to prevailing assumptions, barbarism is not the same thing as merely lacking technology; it is usually the opposite.

    There aren’t any Elon Musks in economics today, and that’s not a good thing, but the problem is not going to get better after a generation of people trained to focus on their genitalia, skin color, and oppression narratives.

  4. Mary Harrington (and the entire Unherd organization) is doing great work in the war against insanity, and this (linked) article is no exception. The view of sex as self-donation (ala JPII, et. Al.) is true and good, and therefore produces human flourishing. The sexual revolution proposes a false view of sex and human happiness, and therefore produces pain, misery, and death.

    It’s not hard to see.

    The strangest irony is that the feminists were able to convince everyone that giving each man a harem to use and discard was somehow liberating for women. Zing!

    “Ah, how we lead them around by their butts!” -- Screwtape

  5. Prof. Feser:
    Your links, as always, are interesting and worth looking into.
    But would you please consider indicating if access is restricted - by a paywall, for example?

  6. The Clean article reminds me of a passage from Harry Jaffa's essay "Equality, Liberty, Wisdom, Morality and Consent in the Idea of Political Freedom". Medicine can be used for good or for ill. To establish trust in medicine, doctors have to pledge to the Hippocratic oath. In other words, the moral limits to technology and technique must be limited by an external standard.

    Now compare Tony Fauci and Jonathan Gruber (the "architect" behind the ACA). What reason do they have not to disrupt the lives of normal people? What pledge have they signed onto which limits the abuse of their powers? Social science has failed us, but not for the reasons Conservartarianism, Inc. believes.

  7. I’ve been vaguely familiar with Thomas Sowell for years. But, to my great poverty, I never put any effort into learning more about him. That has changed over the past year as I have read several of his books. There are few people worthy of the admiration due to Sowell. He is truly a rare and remarkable person and I look forward to reading the biography discussed in the link.

    Some brief points mentioned in the article about Sowell’s evolution as a thinker: he came to realize that “Marxist theory ignores the powerful force of self-interest in the working of economies.”; that no one person could possibly possess sufficient knowledge about something so complex as a national economy to make good decisions (ala Hayek) and, therefore, distributed decision makers (i.e. a free market) is superior (duh); and the “one thing that saved [him] was that [he] always thought facts mattered.” (as opposed to a priori economic theorizing)

    To think that individuals won’t respond to incentives and self-interests, that giving one idiot power to screw up everyone else’s life is a really bad idea, and that facts matter, are ideas far too nuanced for leftists to figure out. And they are too impoverished to satisfy a thinker like Sowell for long.

  8. MS Hammer dropping knowledge!

  9. Wow, awesome to see a neo-aristotelian book on science being so easy to acess. These disciplines tend to be so associated with bad metaphysics that only seeing the book brings joy. Hope that it can solve one or another doubt that i do have but do not tend to remember it enough to look it up.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Well then. I guess the article stands refuted.

  11. The end of the review of the Obama book:

    "What is one to conclude from this? That ours is a Manichean world, and that if you are not standing with the Left, then you are on the side of violence, greed, corruption, nationalism, racism, and religious intolerance? One can only hope that the next volume will reflect the better angels of Barack Obama’s nature."

    That's the word I was looking for to describe the current unpleasantness! Manichean. Poifect.

    1. As good as Joe Bessette's review is, he seems to have missed a major point he could have mentioned. Look at:

      The story that “someone else was getting something we weren’t” and that “government couldn’t be trusted to be fair,” Obama writes, “had come to define the modern Republican Party.”
      Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader John Boehner all understood “how easily that anger could be channeled, how useful fear could be in advancing their cause.”

      It appears that Obama rightly recognized the possibility of using fear and anger. What is incredibly ironic is how clearly, BLATANTLY, the Dems and the far Left, in 2020-21 were the ones openly employing fear and anger: riots, BLM, etc. Similarly, Obama ironically puts anger that "someone is getting something that I am not" into Republican hearts and mouths, but it is quintessentially the modern woke liberal racist mantra. Obama not only writes in Newspeak, he thinks in it.

    2. They all think in this way, Tony. They all think in this way.

  12. Hi Ed,

    The links on divine simplicity were very interesting, and I've enjoyed listening to what Kerr and other philosophers (Tomaszewski and Nemes) have to say on the subject. I'll be blogging on the subject over at The Skeptical Zone within the next week or two. Cheers.

  13. Liked Fradd's hosted debate on lying between Fr. Pine, OP, and Dr. Janet Smith. It looks to me like Fr. Pine wins the debate, as every attempt Dr. Smith made to defend the possible morality of telling a deliberate falsehood came down to appealing to one's (or the masses') general sense of the fitness of it in the circumstance. But isn't a purpose of moral reasoning to determine whether one's moral sense is in fact rightly directed? Fr. Pine always related his arguments to specific moral givens and reasoning.

  14. I remember that one time a fellow complained that both Dr. Feser and James Franklin seem too smile to little or something. If you are still here, my friend, check out Franklin reconstruction of Our Lord PHD. That was pretty clever.

  15. For the record, Robert Gressis (aka, I) wrote the piece on the Journal of Controversial Ideas, not Dan.

    1. Yikes, I'm sorry about that, Rob. I've corrected it. Hope all is well with you.

    2. I'm doing well, Ed! We should get those drinks we talked about so long ago.