Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Aquinas on humor and social life

In Summa Theologiae II-II.168.2-4, Aquinas discusses the essential role that play and humor have in human life.  They are necessary for the health of the individual, insofar as in their absence the mind becomes weary and tense.  And they are necessary for the health of social life, which would be similarly strained without the ability to laugh and play together.  The virtue of wittiness is the character trait that facilitates this human need.  Naturally, as in every other area of human life, we can sin by excess, as when we joke in an inappropriate manner or at an inappropriate time, or are in our general manner of life insufficiently serious about serious matters.  But we can also sin by deficiency, by being insufficiently pleasant and willing to engage in play with our fellows.  Aquinas writes:

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Confucius on our times

What is essential to a well-functioning society?  In a famous passage from The Great Learning traditionally attributed to Confucius (551-479 B.C.), the philosopher says:

The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states.  Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families.  Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons.  Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts.  Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts.  Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge.  Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Oppy and Feser after-party

After the first exchange Graham Oppy and I had on Cameron Bertuzzi’s show Capturing Christianity two years ago, Cameron hosted an after-show Q & A for his patrons.  He has now made it available to the general public on YouTube.  It runs for over half an hour and ranges over a wide variety of topics – the laws of logic, fundamental particles, divine simplicity and modal collapse, divine freedom, the “what caused God?” objection, dualism versus materialism, the Principle of Sufficient Reason, Thomism versus theistic personalism, potentiality versus actuality, and even capital punishment.  Check it out.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Sterba on the problem of evil

Recently my article “The Thomistic Dissolution of the Logical Problem of Evil” appeared in the journal Religions.  It was part of a special issue devoted to critical responses to James Sterba’s book Is a Good God Logically Possible?  Sterba has now replied to his critics.  What follows are some remarks about what he says about my own contribution.  (Keep in mind that what I have to say below presupposes my earlier essay and that I’m not going to repeat here everything I said there.)

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Adventures in the Old Atheism, Part V: Woody Allen

So far in this series we’ve considered Nietzsche, Sartre, Freud, and Marx.  None of them is exactly a laugh riot.  So let’s now take a look at the lighter side of atheistic disenchantment and nihilism, in the work of that most philosophical of American comic filmmakers, Woody Allen.  We’ve noted how one of the features that distinguishes the New Atheism from the Old is its shallow optimism.  New Atheists typically refuse to see any good in religion at all, and thus can foresee no loss whatsoever in the prospect of its disappearance.  Allen is as free of that sophomoric attitude as any Old Atheist, which gives him at least some of the relative sobriety of the members of that club.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Oppy on Thomistic cosmological arguments

My article “Oppy on Thomistic cosmological arguments” has just been published in the latest issue of the journal Religious Studies.  (It’s behind a paywall, sorry.)  It is a reply to all of the criticisms Graham Oppy has leveled over the years against arguments of that sort, not only in his Religious Studies article on my Aristotelian proof, but also in his books Arguing about Gods and Naturalism and Religion and elsewhere.  (Regular readers will recall the two YouTube exchanges I had with Oppy on the program Capturing Christianity, which you can view here and here.)