Saturday, January 1, 2022

New Year’s open thread

Dear reader, let’s open up the discussion this year by letting you open it up.  It’s time to get that otherwise off-topic comment of yours that I keep deleting out of your system at last.  For in these open thread posts, everything is on-topic, from Marshall McLuhan to Malcom McLaren, from Duke Ellington to Beef Wellington, from Plato to Play-Doh.  Just keep things civil and constructive, please.  Previous open threads archived here.


  1. How do you find such on-the-nose comic book references for your posts?

    1. It varies. Sometimes I recall relevant images from things I've read over the years and use them for something I've written; sometimes I come across an image and save it for use later (sometimes years later) when an appropriate post is written; sometimes I have to search for an appropriate image after coming up with an idea for a post (and I usually have a rough idea what sort of place to look); and every now and then (though rarely) I come across an image first and then think "I've got to write up something I can use this for"!

    2. The thought of Dr. Feser computer having several images waiting for months before finally being used is just very funny. Don't know why.

  2. Dr Feser,
    If everything is on topic,
    I will return to my previous post about death and repentance, where I said we were essentially in agreement. It's when the soul departs the body that is unclear. However,
    a classic manual of moral theology holds that the soul's departure is not at all immediate. Moral Theology by Rev Herbert Jone, O.F.M.,J.C.D., published in 1962,
    is available online in PDF. Note what he says about absolution for an apparently dead person in Section 557:
    "The priest can and must absolve a person within half an hour after he has stopped breathing if death ensues after a long illness. In case of sudden death,absolution may still be given within TWO (OR MORE HOURS) (emphasis mine) after breathing has ceased."

    1. Anonymous,

      "Rev Herbert Jone [sic]"

      More important than what Rev. Jones writes is what the Catechism says. Have you looked at there?

      Tom Cohoe

    2. Neither Jone nor the tradition he is following is claiming that anyone can repent or be absolved after the person is actually dead. The idea is rather that, just in case the ordinary evidence of death is somehow misleading (i.e. the person, though to all appearances not revivable, is still alive, even if just barely and undetectably) it is a good idea to give absolution, just in case. There is a vast difference between "We don't know with absolute certainty that he is dead, so give absolution just in case" and "We know with absolute certainty that he is dead, but absolve him anyway." Jone is saying the first, not the second.

    3. Tom Cohoe:
      Heribert Jone was German and a distinguished Catholic moral theologian. His manual on moral theology went through 18 editions.

    4. @ Anonymous,

      "Heribert Jone"

      You are so right. I read "Jone" as a delete and replace error and searched under "Jones". Unfortunately, there is a Reverend Herbert Jones (in your first citation you had it as "Herbert" not "Heribert", so the name matched perfectly with my erroneous assumption that "Jone" was supposed to be "Jones". Reverend Herbert Jones died many years after Reverend Heribert Jone, and was a Baptist, so my immediate thought was "what kind of Catholic priest would carry around a book on moral theology by a Baptist?" and went no further and recommended the Catechism instead.

      Now I still recommend the Catechism, backed by this serious criticism by Ronald L. Conte Jr. in an Amazon review:

      "Not an orthodox source on moralality - First published in 1929, subsequent editions have not been updated with more recent teachings of the Catholic Church in moral theology. As a result, many of Jone's opinions are incompatible with current doctrine, found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the encyclicals of Popes from Pius XII to John Paul II. Another problem with the book is the absence, in many cases, of a theological argument or a quotation/citation from Church teaching in support of Jone's views. He merely asserts that this act is moral and that act is immoral. Not recommended. Some of his views on sexual ethics are bizarre and contrary to reason, such as his claim that a woman being raped must 'offer internal and external resistance' in order 'to avoid sinning' (n. 226). So very wrong. Do not trust his ideas on sexual ethics."

      This may not or may not be fair comment on Jone - I have not read "Moral Theology". But I still say that the Catechism is a source closer to true Church teachings than a work by an individual priest on his own.

      This is not to say that Jone should not be cited in a question, just that his work is not really authentic Church teaching. For myself, however, I have become cautious about trusting "standard works" in this modern and postmodern age.

      Tom Cohoe

    5. Tom Cohoe:
      Notice I (anonymous) said I was going to return to my previous post, which was on Ed's previous blog on Geach and Hell. There I was referencing the Catechism, specifically Section 2283, about repentance in the moment between bodily death and the soul's departure from the body.

      My uncle was a Catholic battlefield chaplain during the Vietnam War. When I asked him how he could anoint and absolve a dead soldier, he said he did so conditionally on the soul not having yet departed the body. He showed me his copy of Jone's Moral Theology, where Jone writes that absolution may be given up to three hours after breathing has ceased.

      Jone wrote in the "manualist" tradition, which is how many European Catholic theologians wrote back then, including Prummer, Zalba, Noldin and others. The books were orthodox theology textbooks for their time. That English edition of Jone had the Imprimatur of John Wright, Bishop of Pittsburg, dated Dec. 8, 1961. Of course, the Catechism is a "source closer to true Church teachings," because it is a Catechism and updated. Some of Jone's writings reflect the time in which he wrote, especially about rape, where even in this country, women had to prove they had resisted an attacker to secure a rape conviction in court.

      I would differ with Ronald Conte, who is neither a priest or a trained moral theologian, when he says Jone is not an orthodox source of morality. Jone's Moral Theology was a standard work, translated into multiple languages, and used in seminaries around the world up until Vatican II. It would not have endured so long if it were contrary to Church teaching.

    6. @ Anonymous,

      "It would not have endured so long if it were contrary to Church teaching."

      The works of Aquinas have endured much longer as not being contrary to Church teachings and yet on a different thread a work by a Polish priest trying to prove that Aquinas' works are circular has been drawn to my attention, so I still think that caution is due in a work such as that of Jone. The imprimatur of a bishop hardly compares with the canonization and recognition as Doctor of the Church of Aquinas, and yet it is apparently OK for a priest to set aside this recognition by the Church, so I do not see how lack of formal status is sufficient to discount the reasoned caution of Conte, especially since so much trouble has arisen from seminaries in recent and not so recent decades. We must fight this kind of clericalism which has so often been a source of great harm as a barrier between the clergy and the laity.

      However, I do not wish to argue about this as I have not read Jone, and am not in a position even to decide whether Conte has made fair comment, as I said above.

      That I tend to read modern commentary through a long telescope is my personal bugaboo and I will not easily be changed.

      In sympathy to your position I have long believed that there is no dead person whose soul we must not pray for, for it is not for us to usurp God's salvatory action but to hope for salvation for each particular person in the same way that it is God's will that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

      I will leave it to you and Ed to sort out your perfectly legitimate question here.

      Tom Cohoe

    7. Well, the works of Aquinas have endured much longer because he was born about 600 yrs before Jone.

      Modernism crept into the seminaries after Vatican II, when manualists like Jone went out of favor. Books by Jone were published for decades with ecclesiastical approval in many countries and Catholics may freely read them. Still, there are other more recent works one may consult. Ed himself is writing a book on sexual morality. And he and I are in agreement about conditional absolution for the dying.

      Ed and I are in agreement and have nothing to sort out. BTW, Ed is actually writing a book on sexual morality now.

  3. Under Thomistic ethics, who, if anyone, is the beneficiary of moral actions?

    1. Depends on the moral action, doesn't it? But in general, the person who does the moral act is always a beneficiary since all moral acts are, by definition, done for the good of the person who does them.

    2. Thanks much Geocon. You say "all moral acts, are, by definition, done for the good of the person who does them." So,it would be fair to say that you view the very purpose of ethics as being self-interest? Do you see the ultimate end of ethics as being the flourishing of the individual person? This view would stand in contrast,I think, to deontological, altruistic, and certain Utilitarian codes of morality.(This last is not necessarily a negative to me.)

    3. I could be wrong but i think that St. Thomas, like most ancient philosophers, do see the aim of ethics as being the happiness of the individual(and the society too). Is that not why he starts part 2 of the ST talking about our final end?

    4. Right Talmid. It sounds like a Eudaimonic ethics. But this brings to mind several questions: Does the happiness of the individual ever conflict with the happiness of society? How does a Thomistic ethics square with the ethics of Jesus. Jesus did not seem to teach an ethics of personal flourishing but rather an ethic of, to paraphrase Him, of hating one's life.

    5. @jmchugh

      Interesting questions, let me tackle them:

      "Does the happiness of the individual ever conflict with the happiness of society?"

      In general, not really. St. Thomas sees the flourishing of the individual as linked with the flourishing of society:

      "It must, moreover, be observed that every individual member of a society is, in a fashion, a part and member of the whole society. Wherefore, any good or evil, done to the member of a society, redounds on the whole society: thus, who hurts the hand, hurts the man."

      So when the individual aims for his own excelence he does helps society directly by his acts and indirectly be "giving" society a better member.

      Of course, there are situations where the good of the individual is against the common good, at least in a temporal/wordly sense. For instance, perhaps by abandoning secular life by going to another city to become a monk i will make my society lose a valuable member and so getting overall weaker. But even them i will help my society by my example and prayer, so this can become a interesting discussion that needs more of my thoughts.

      "How does a Thomistic ethics square with the ethics of Jesus?"

      There seems to be a certaun confusion on this question, maybe caused by a wordly false-dichotomy between being happy and ignoring sensual pleasures. Our Lord teached a ascetic life not as a end but as a means to being one with God. See for instance this verses from the Sermon of the Mount:

      "19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,(V) where moths and vermin destroy,(W) and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,(X) where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.(Y) 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.(Z)

      22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[c] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

      24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.(AA)"
      (From Matthew 6)

      One should not aim to be rich because(as said on v 24) the focus on riches can distract you from loving God. If you focus on created goods(having unhealthy eyes) them you will find more and more dificult to love The Father and so will end up seduced by riches and other wordly things(becoming full of darkness).

      So Our Lord ethics is really eudaimonistic as well, even if it is moved by gratitute also. St. Thomas would be the first to agree that Our Final End is the source of our happiness and so we should sacrifice inferior goods to get union with Him and perfectly flourish as the creatures made to love God that we are. This is something that not only he defended with his writings but also with his acts, so i don't see any conflict between Our Lord and his scholastic servant.

    6. Thank you Talmid. I see your point and yet it is jarring to read Aristotle speak of pride as "the crown of all virtues" and pair that with such biblical quotes as "pride goeth before the fall." Too, Aristotle saw Eudaemonia as an end in itself, not as a means to a Godly end as Aquinas did.

    7. Yea. The metic, being a victim of original sin and all that, had several problems. Like with the other great pagan thinkers, the secret is separating the truth from the error in his writings. St. Thomas did that and it worked pretty well.

  4. Usury is essentially an inequality of justice in a personally secured loan. One major issue is the measure used to determine the inequality. Many authors assume that there is an inequality of value, whereas the usury doctrine insists on a measure of quantity.
    Exchange generally consists in the trade of diverse goods, where there is an imbalance of need. One needs something someone else has more than something they currently possess. In this sort of transaction, need or value is the measure of the diverse goods exchanged.
    However, in the case of personally secured loans, something is granted now to be returned in kind later. The in kind return means that the exchange involves the same sort of good rather than diverse goods. It seems under this sort of transaction, the measure is quantity because the equality of two thing of the same kind is simply unity.
    This differs from asset secured loans, because one exchanges a good now for some sort of claim over another good, namely the security. Hence, there is a diversity of goods in the exchange, where value becomes determinative of equality. The personally secured loan exchanges only some good now for the promise of a good in the future.
    What is wrong with this, if anything?


  6. I got into a debate with Gunther Laird (author of the Unnecessary Science, which critiques Feser's arguments)over on The Verbose Stoic's blog. The whole thing really involved hashing out the whole point of doing metaphysics. Laird's POV was pragmatist and he apparently only really cares about science and engineering. Anyway, my comments are under 'Tom' and the whole thing turned into 86 comments for those who'd like to wade through it. It would be great if anyone would give me some pointers on how I could have improved my arguments or if I went wrong somewhere.

    1. If he only cares about science and engineering, then why is he getting involved in a debate about ethics? That seems to be outside his wheelhouse.

    2. Mister Geocon,

      Well the debate here was surrounding metaphysics, although I believe he does tackle natural law theory in his book (which I haven't read).

      The post in question which started the whole discussion was inspired by this article which attacks Feser and metaphysics in general:

    3. Yogami,

      Look, what I'm saying is to be skeptical of anyone who claims they only care about "the science." If he only cared about "the science," he wouldn't have waded into a debate about natural law ethics. I mean, based on his writing, his refutation of Thomistic natural law theory is pretty incompetent. Again, it's clearly not his wheelhouse, so why is he commenting on it?

    4. @Mister Geocon: can you sum up what is incompetent about Laird's arguments against Thomistic natural law theory? Are his arguments invalid, or is the problem a failure on Laird's part to understand one or more Thomistic theses? Or both?

    5. Well, he makes the typical "The Thomistic arguments don't prove the Christianity. He also claims that Feser's arguments against same-sex acts don't take into account the possibility that there could exist the universal of homosexuality, thus making same-sex acts in conformity with the nature of the homosexual qua homosexual. Also, he made another post in which he argued that one could be rationally in favor of same-sex marriage because there were Christian writers in the past who were against having sex in any context.

      From what I can tell, none of his arguments ever rise above that level. They're just... bad. Very bad.

  7. Dangit. In my comment I don't think I included the link...

    1. DrYogami - Well done! I think your use of Holms was well done. And I think highlighting how critical good metaphysics is to a multiplicity of questions was also a really good point to make. Gunter's point about giving the Empiricists a try was really begging the question since empiricists would have to make a metaphysics out of their method, and you called that out as well.

      I honestly think any response from Ed would follow similar lines. Do you think it would be worthwhile for Ed to engage in Gunter's work? Or would that just be calling attention to some pretty poorly argued positions?

    2. Hahahahahahaha! Love this comment from you :)

      "Finally, you claim your ultimate value to be pragmatism, but it’s kinda hard for me to believe that. We’re already over 40 comments into this discussion and you’ve written a 376 page book dealing with Feser’s Scholasticism. Given your views on metaphysics, this doesn’t seem all that practical. Maybe you should take up gardening or woodworking? 😉"

    3. Gunter's response makes me think Ed shouldn't really engage with him. I don't think he deserves it.

      "Hah! I thought you might say something like that. But my book, though it deals heavily with philosophy, isn’t an exclusively philosophical monograph. It’s intended to reduce the influence guys like Feser have on public and intellectual life, which is a quite a pragmatic concern indeed."

    4. OK - I think this nails it on the head. Gunther is angry that Ed's books on Metaphysics are providing a strong basis for arguing against things he rejects politically. But he is happy to entertain the "metaphysics" of philosophers he likes.

      "Well, I’ve never attended a Federalist Society lunch, but presumably you have and are in the know. This does, however cement something I suspected all along: you’re mad about the politicization of philosophy. Or at least right-wing philosophy. I’d argue that politics always has some philosophy smuggled into its views, but that takes us outside the topic. There are of course liberal philosophers, radical philosophers, Marxist philosophers, etc. along with the more conservative ones. I suspect that in academia probably the majority of philosophers are liberal to some degree or other and the conservatives are a minority. Obviously conservative organizations are going to have a preference for guys like Feser, Roger Scruton, Edmund Burke and so on. But what do you expect? They’re conservatives."

    5. Daniel: thanks! I did catch him out on this passage of his:

      So then we get to more interesting questions like “how do we know what’s real” and “what is real?” Those seem to deal with epistemology, ontology , and I would argue science. Metaphysics, once again, defined as “the study of ultimate or fundamental reality” doesn’t seem like it can do more than those daughter fields do.

      And pointed out that ontology was a branch of metaphysics. This should have had more of an effect than it did, but unfortunately the whole thing got sidetracked by his discussion with Verbose Stoic. I brought it up, he asked me where I'd posted it, and I just didn't feel like throwing the quote back in his face, so we moved on.

      His perspective on the intellect is basically Darwinian, seeing it as not primarily about discovering truth but for survival. In retrospect, I wonder if I should have pressed him further on this, because I thought it might put him into Richard Rorty territory (though I might be wrong).

      I haven't read his book, so I don't know about the general quality of his arguments there. But Ed has tackled Richard Dawkins and the like, and they're not exactly known for penetrating insight, so I don't see why he wouldn't take on Laird's book.

    6. Hey Dr. Yogami -

      I think you are right - he is or was going into Richard Rorty territory. But does it do any good treating such as this as an honest dialog partner?

      Honestly, you did a pretty good job tying him up into pretzels on that blog. And, his book has a really low Amazon rating. And as you said, he seems to be fairly comfortable with some pretty glaring logical inconsistencies - talking about ontology without realizing it is a branch of metaphysics. Ed probably has some bigger fish to fry. Plus it will only help that guy's books sales for Ed to call any attention to his book.

      But maybe a devastating and humorous blog post might be in order. Still - if Ed were to give him an honest review - that would require reading through several hundred pages of his book. If you haven't even spent the time reading through it, why should Ed! :)

  8. Ed and fellow Thomists I'm willing to take this opportunity for a question that I somehow got confused about.

    Do you guys think Act and Potency presuppose essence or it naturally leads to essences? I personally don't think Act and Potency presuppose essences, but my point is related to limitation. Since you can sculpt wood but not air, you can teach mathematics to a kid but not to a gorilla things obviously present to us their natural capacities and limitations.

    But someone might argue that this sort of argument might presuppose that since things have limitations you 'read' essences into them.

    Like I've said, I don't think that this argument could possibly work, but I'm not as well sophisticated to give a good answer to it. Can you guys give some help?

    May God bless us all!

    1. To see how the theory of Act and Potency leads to essentialism, take the example of a rubber ball. Now, someone who rejects the Aristotelian view of act and potency might say that the rubber ball could potentially become anything since they can imagine it to be the case. However, the Aristotelian view is that the ball has certain potentials and not others. The ball can be melted, painted a different color, or thrown across the room, but it cannot be turned into a live chicken or be made to bounce to the moon just by dropping it from a two-story building. The reason for this is that we believe that the potentials an object has are real facets of the object and not simply products of one's imagination.

      Now, from the Thomist view, the essences of objects limit what they could become or do. If you believe that objects have real potencies of some kinds and not some other kinds of potencies, then you must at least accept this thin view of essentialism. The ‘thicker’ view of essentialism comes from further analysis that some properties are more essential to an object than others, but that can easily be argued based on the distinction between matter and form, between substance and accident, etc. all of which flow from both the act-potency distinction and simple observation of everyday objects.

    2. As i understand it, there is a clear relation between act-potency and essencialism, for a potentiality aways depends on something already actual and the type of actuality will determine the type of potentiality. The wood example you gave,for instance, the wood only has the potentials it has because of the particular form it has, its set of qualities and limitations.

      The imaginary oponent of essences would need to give us a account of act-potency and of limitations that makes no reference to essences, forms, types etc. Maybe the closer one could give of that is a form of idealism or non-dualism* where the individual things do not really exist except as appearance but that would just make us ask how The One can have the potential to have these perceptions while not having a set of characteristics and so, you guessed, a essence, so i don't see how one runs from essencialism for very long.

      *they are very diferent, of course

    3. (cont)
      I forgot to mention but the imaginary oponent could insist as well that things potentialities are there thanks to extrinsic factors that determine how these things act, kinda like the common modern view the laws of physics as these things that order matter.

      The usual criticisms of this view can be used and one could also ask why the laws have the potential of causing the comportaments it causes and not others if they have no determinate essences, though.

    4. Dear @Mister Geocon and my fellow Brazilian countryman @Talmid

      So, since you guys were such receptive - and I really appreciate it! I must ask if you guys kindly would help me with another question. I will give some context before it.

      One of the few things that I - and everyone - can know with certainty is the fact that Aristotle discovered something extremely fundamental for our metaphysical explanations i.e potency and act. You can't make sense of the world without it I think.

      Whatever metaphysical view someone might have if they deny that things have active and passive potencies they are turning the world unintelligible. I don't mean that you need to accept all the theory and its developments (e.g pure potency). I'm simply saying that if you deny that things have active and passive capacities, you are not only making change and causality problematic, but I really think that without acknowledging at least potency in real beings, you are faded to fail in explaining the world. Of course, someone that has an anti-realist metaphysical grind will not accept this, but they ultimately aren't going anywhere.

      So, my question is something like this: even in a 'worst-case scenario' e.g if a seed becomes a Studebaker lark, for example, we still need potency to explain why this specific seed becomes a nice car and not that one and the other one. And the point is the seed must necessarily have a capacity for that in the first place, otherwise, any other answer could not satisfy that ''fact'' at all. What do you guys think?

    5. And just to clarify I do not think that a seed could become a Studebaker lark - otherwise, I would turn my house into a garden for cars. I just tried to make an example to develop the question of something unusual and impossible.

    6. And just to be clear, I do believe in act and potency and essence as real constituents of beings. I'm sorry if my question was too wide.

      But My point is that whatever the ''explanations'' someone might give for how the world works, you can't eliminate at all act and potency from it - no matter how you 'mingle' or diminish their extensions. It is something that the world presents to us not something we read into the world.

      So, no matter how sophisticated some explanation might seem to be it would have to fit with act and potency and essences.

    7. Tadeo @ 5.39 PM

      "Since you can sculpt wood but not air, ..."

      No. I don't think that's right. It's only that when you sculpt air, the product or outcome may not be as tangible or realisable as one would hope, but the result would be quite clear in your mind. :o)

    8. @Tadeo

      Hi! Yes, i agree that act and potency are fundamental for explaining how reality functions and that anyone who wishes do deny it has quite some work to do.

      Dr. Feser itself said several times that the non-aristotelian needs to find a good way of responding to Heraclitus and Parmenides if he wants to have a rival system. From what i can see, most non-aristotelians tend to eventually fall on one of the two extremes.

    9. @Paps!

      What was that question ye asked me last time or comment ye made that I said I would ignore as it was off topic but would answer it on an open topic thread?

      I would go back and look but I have too short an attention span..oooh! Shiny!

      Kidding. Ask away.

    10. @Papalinton

      "No. I don't think that's right. It's only that when you sculpt air, the product or outcome may not be as tangible or realisable as one would hope..."

      Papa, are you some kind of Airbender like that bald boy with an arrow in his head or something?

  9. Also, Ed

    How are you so on point with the images on the post? It reminds me of when you did a post about Hume and the image linked on the post was nothing less than Fat Bastard from Austin Powers. Such a perfect fit. I think we need a post about the metaphysics involved in this! The metaphysics of Ed Feser's precisely related images to the post's content.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I have wondered about this. Maybe I'm just too dumb to grasp the A-T answer, lol.

    It seems as though to have a functional brain is a necessary condition for the intellect's performing intellective operations. But A-T says that operations of the intellect are performed without a bodily organ.

    I see no reason to adhere to that A-T thesis. If no properly functioning brain, no operations of intellect. Is this controversial?

    Therefore I see no reason to think that humans have a spiritual soul that can, apart from the body, carry on any operations.

    1. The A-T view is that operations of the intellect and of the will are performed without a bodily organ on the sense that these operations transcend the bodily capacities and so have no bodily organ as the one doing the heavy work, one can say. Thomists would be quick to point out, thought, that the human soul is made to work with the body and so while her proper acts are not bodily they need a functioning body to work out. So to this:

      "If no properly functioning brain, no operations"

      We say:"yea". Aquinas dismiss views like platomic dualism because they can't account for the soul dependence on the body. Take a look at part 1 of the Summa that St. Thomas dedicates several questions to the subject. You see that his view of dualism has little to do with substance dualism.

      And yes, the human soul ALONE can't carry on any operations after death. Aquinas defends that it literally needs God help to act while separated from the body, contra platonism.

    2. @ ficino4ml,

      The soul does not carry on intellectual operations when separated from the body, according to A-T, just as a hand cannot slap when separated from the rest of the body. However, intellectual operations are more than just the operation of the brain. This is a mind brain dualism, which was made infamous by Descartes or one of those guys around his time. However, Thomistic mind-brain dualism is not refuted by the various refutations of the various modern dualistic theories that followed. Thomistic dualism was just ignored by the moderns and it became a "fact" that Thomistic dualism was long ago refuted.

      Sorry moderns and postmoderns and all, you are wrong.

      Tom Cohoe

    3. @ficino

      I will try to explain it in a simple way - since it is a little bit hard to grasp - why A-T meta thinks that way.

      We can say that everything in the world is individual but intellectual activity perceives and grasps them in an abstract and general way.

      Ed's example on triangles is the best one that we can have to explain why this is so. You see a right triangle and an obtuse one, or even a black triangle or a purple triangle, and know that they are triangles. What happens is that the intellectual activity perceives the form of these triangles.

      One thing you need to keep in mind is that nothing reaches the intellect except through the senses. The senses grasp what is individuated and singular (e.g this triangle, that one) but the intellect grasp a universal aspect shared by these individual things (e.g its forms).

      Once you apprehend the form of a triangle - what it is - you can understand that the form of triangles does not depend on their individual instantiations, say, and by that, you know that since the intellect grasps an immaterial aspect shared by the multiplicity of triangles (or things) it is not a bodily capacity, because every material and embodied thing is an individual and particular, but the intellect grasps and abstracts something shared by all of them and make it intelligible.

      That's very basic and not so well formulated, but I do hope you could understand the point, my good man!

    4. At the risk of inventing my own dictionary, i might shorthand the human process thus:
      . Intellect is spiritual
      . Brain is bodily
      . Mind is intellect and brain working in union, as it were.
      (Most might object to this mind definition, but I'd welcome a different term if one can be supplied)

    5. @Unknown,

      Well I'd be hesitant in just uniting the intellectual with the spiritual as the spiritual seems much deeper than just what is intellectual. Part of it has to do with how these words are commonly understood - to be intellectual is to know a lot or to be plainly logical, while spiritual things like prayer, liturgy and religious experience is different and seems deeper. Even if we understand the intellectual as specifically what grasps universals and other immaterials like haecceities if they exist, it still doesn't seem like the deepest portion of what's immaterial in us.

    6. In order to answer this question, you need to keep in mind strictly what it is that the A-T position says while also strongly adhering to what your experiences of thinking are like. Really try to “read” and study those experiences in order to grasp what is happening.

      First, the Aristotelian-Thomist position is that we can prove an immaterial element of thought: the knowledge and understanding of abstract concepts. So insofar as those are used in our thinking, we are using an immaterial process. Other than that, there is no reason to postulate immaterial action. The entirety of thinking need not be immaterial so long as that element is. In fact, Aristotle believed the intellect abstracts forms from concrete sense phenomena. This leads to the second point.

      Second, when thinking, we are constantly using sense experience. Usually we use words and images. We replay scenes of our past in our head as we try to understand them, visualize numbers as we do math, etc etc. So we really do use our brains a lot when thinking, we use sense experience and mental phenomena. However, this is all to assist our intellects in abstracting and reasoning about forms which are immaterial.

    7. Ficino. The soul can certainly engage in activities on its own (indeed, the highest activity of the will and intellect), as its experience of realities after death (Heaven ideally) shows. St. Thomas did not deny such a thing.

    8. @ joe d
      To be clear,i was not equating intellect with spirit, only meaning that it is an attribute or "power" of the spirit.
      Our spirits definitely have other, deeper layers as you suggest

    9. Thank you to those who replied. I am distilling this: universals are not bodies, so the faculty by which we perform operations that concern universals is not a bodily faculty.

      Is this encapsulation accurate?

    10. @ficino

      Yea. Every material thing is particular and indefinible while a concept is universal and definible in a way that a material body can't be, so concepts are immaterial. Since dealing with these things is beyond bodies capacity and our minds can do it, our minds have a immaterial aspect beyond the bodily organs.

      The insight goes back to Plato, i believe. Dr. Feser has a old but interesting post on his affinity argument were it is explained well. The Professor academic article and online lectures on the "immaterial aspects of thought" would help a lot.

    11. Is there a kind of dualism about soul that is between Cartesian substance dualism and property dualism - or even, event dualism? Or is the Thomist position to be folded in under property dualism?

    12. Thomistic dualism is properly called hylemorphic dualism, though some thomists do not use the term "dualist" because of how diferent it his from the modern views. It is between cartesian and property dualism on the sense that it sees the soul as naturally united to the body(contra cartesian dualism) but as capable of existing alone(contra property dualism).

      But one can only really understand the view if one gets Aquinas metaphysics and philosophy of nature, for his hylemorphism is completely diferent that what the modern positions take for granted. Dr. Feser has a very helpful series here about the theme:

      Blog posts, a article, a book recomendation, one can learn quite a few things and with Ed helpful language, irt is a cool series.

    13. @ Talmid, talk like Feser's about what the intellect can and can't do, the crucial difference between the intellect and sense/imagination, the intellect's cognition of intelligibles contrasted to other parts of the soul's inability to cognize intelligibles, etc. presupposes the intellect exits as a distinct part or faculty of the human. But we do not know this prior to arguments about intellect's understanding intelligible objects. We do not know already that there is a soul naturally united to the body, as you speak of, or that this soul can exist "alone." Why should we think that the soul, "naturally united to the body" (in your eyes), is "capable of existing alone" (in yours against property dualism).

    14. I found that Edward Feser explained a lot about the sort of "dualism" found in the Thomistic view here:

    15. About why think the intellect is immaterial, this argument is pretty helpful:
      (You can find it for free on New Dualism, but if you prefer to pay to help the boys there is the option...)

      He talks about it here as well:

      I also like Dr. Rasmussen argument on his article "Against Non-reductive Physicalism". While he is likely not a thomist, the argument is very interesting.

      Notice, as Ed mentions on some of his posts, that these two arguments deal with the intellect directly and not with qualia or intentionality. Thanks to the very diferent philosophy of nature that the thomist has, these things are not really seem as good candidates to immateriality. Quite unlike the debate today, no?

      Anyway, hope that the material is helpful!

    16. @Talmid, thanks for the citation, have downloaded and shall read in due course.

  12. Is it ok to get angry when asked physiological question about Jesus, our lord? If not how is the right way to answer those unconfortable questions?

    1. What's the point of getting angry? Usually it just leads to worse communication, hurt feelings or misunderstandings. And God doesn't have to worry, so why would you get angry on his behalf? Just be composed, calm, and answer whatever questions people might pose. That's all

    2. Could you explain what exactly you mean Jaime? What kind of physiological questions do you have in mind? Why would you get angry about being asked a physiologica question?

    3. I don't personally get angry but many people do. What I do get myself is unconfortable.

      I mean, for example, did Jesus absorb all the nutrients from food into his body given who He was (and is) or did some of that food went to waste? In other words, did He have to go, you know?

    4. About getting angry, it will depends on the question and how it is made. If it is made as a kinda of blasphemy or mockery them anger is understadable but usually not very useful. If it is a genuine question them anger is not okay, the person is just curious.

      The secret is understanding the whole situation. There are times were anger is okay and there are times were it is not.

    5. I assume Jesus did have to poop and urinate. What's wrong with that? It's just part of human biological functioning. It's how we get rid of waste in our bodies. We just have negative responses to poop, urine, etc. because of evolutionary selection, bad smell associated with bacteria, etc., as it's (obviously) not healthy to touch feces or other stuff like that. The same goes for blood (part of our circulatory system) to a lesser extent.

      Honestly, pretty childish to make a big deal out of excrements and stuff. It's all just biological functions and chemical compounds.

    6. If you believe that Christ was perfect man (as St Leo put it in his Tome, 'totus in nostris') you have to accept that Christ had a fully functioning human body. The perfection of his human nature did not remove anything that pertains to that nature, so the answer to the question has to be 'yes'. The alternative would be akin to the Docetist heresy. How edifying such considerations are, except in so far as they point to Christ's human perfection, is another question altogether.

    7. I don't know what my problem is, it's just weird I suppose. You seem not bothered at all.

  13. One of the more interesting series this blog has is the Old Atheism one, it is very interesting how these brilliant and courageous thinkers picked atheism and its implications so well and how their diferent points of view gave the thing diferent flavours. Trying to see like they while being happy that He is here is a suprisingly fun exercise. I never read the guy directly but a episode on Lovecraft seems very cool, Dr. Feser.

    Now going on with the question: let us suppose that there is no Monotheist God or any other divinity at all, some form of naturalism is probably true, reason is truly good at scientific purposes and worthless at the rest etc. On these presupositions, is the Alex Rosenberg-style scientificism or the romantic clinging to sentiment and denial of reason grim conclusions a nobler* atitude?

    While we can be sympathetic to the average nihilist insistence that we should accept what(he thinks) reason tell us above what we want to be true, it is true that the naturalist has no obligation to not lie to himself like we have, so he can't really dismiss something like Nietzsche insistence that we should aim at creating useful values even while knowing that no value is more that useful.

    What would you guys pick? The guys that don't see this question as a game can help on the discussion as well.

    *yes, on this worldview there is no real nobility, but should they care?

  14. What does Aquinas mean by "noble"? He often says things like actuality is "nobler" than potentiality, or the sensitive power than the nutritive; and from its inclusion in the Fourth Way, I infer that it must be a transcendental. But I struggle to grasp what distinguishes "nobility" from being or goodness. What special aspect is "nobility" supposed to indicate? And, for example, when I read Aquinas say that light is the "noblest" of the senses, how am I to interpret that? Why not "best" rather than "noblest"?

    1. I would say that although goodness is transcendental and hence one, it can be apprehended variously. There is metaphysical goodness; there is moral goodness; when we talk about 'noble' in this sense I think we are talking about axiological goodness.

  15. I remain amazed at how many people say similar things about ideologies/religions that they cleave to, even when there is a great diversity among the systems of claims made by those ideologies/religions. Like this guy:

    "While many millennials are leaving organized religion, Eshbaugh embraced Judaism after being introduced to Jewish traditions through a couple of close friends many years ago. He did not grow up religious but instantly felt a sense of belonging and fulfillment.

    “I find a sense of spiritual and intellectual wholeness and an understanding of my place in the world through being Jewish. Continually asking questions and challenging ideas through Judaism fulfills me,” he said.

    1. Faith (as well as the cheap faith-substitutes provided by cults, New Age, and secular political ideologies) appeal to a deep yearning in the human soul.

  16. Replies
    1. Is not a hot dog just one piece of bread with a weird opening while a sandwich is two pieces of bread separated by the filling*? Unless one defines sandwich as "bread holding other kinda of food" i don't see how a hot dog could be a sandwich.

      *is that the right word?

    2. Well, I would think the food one usually buys at, say, a Subway, would be a sandwich. That's one piece of bread... So where does that leave us?

    3. It is? Never eated in one.

      Well, one could say that the term sandwich is just being used wrong, but them we would need a good reason to prefer a more restritive definition of the word and i admit that etymology is not my area, so i'am probably not the guy for that.

  17. Anonymous,

    "What does Aquinas mean by "noble"?"

    Good question. I would say that the simplest answer is that he means "like God". Created things are images of God and their nobility is of various degree insofar as their likeness is closer to or further from the infinitely distant (in likeness) supremacy of our eternal God. We cannot measure this distance as distance from God as infinity does not admit of measure, but we can compare relative distance of one created thing to another in the direction that is towards God.

    Tom Cohoe

  18. Does anyone have any views on neuroscientist Carl Hart's new book Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear?

    1. It was groundbreaking in medical intervention to switch our perception of addiction to a disease. We can add normalizing addiction or "addiction lifestyle" to list of postmodern nonsense. Functional alcoholism is not a valid argument for alcoholism. Also Hart lacks the proper credentials to offer the opinions he has on non-heroin recreational drugs that he offers up. His bias on the benefits opiates is rather telling. He offers some interesting historical perspective and first person addiction perspective. He breaks down the common stereotypes of addicts. Outside of that, the logical ends of his suggestions are dangerous; anyone in the addiction fields (an actual scientific field) could supply copious amounts of scientific medical data to undermine his unsupported assertions.

    2. Wouldn't his argument be precisely that non-addictive or even non-abusive recreational drug use is the norm? Or at least is possible?

      P.S.: As far as I'm aware, Hart himself is not an addict, just a user. Not even someone who meets the criteria for substance use disorder.

    3. P.P.S: Can we at least distinguish between his legal prescriptions (which I think are misguided on prudential terms) from his argument that recreational drug use is not inherently disordered? I would think the latter has a strong case behind it. Even under current medical standards, one doesn't receive a SUD diagnosis simply for using something recreationally. Only a certain percentage of users of a substances meet the criteria, and it's not 100%. None of the criteria is 'has used substance X for non-medical purposes in the last year/month/whatever'.

      As for addiction, it's technically not even a valid diagnosis, according to the DSM, at least. It's much too muddled a term.

    4. Distinguishing between legal/illegal/prescription/recreational isn't of much help. Abuse and addiction of drugs occurs in all categories. I don't necessarily disagree SUD dx criteria is muddled, it is a work in progress. My bone of contention of Dr. Hart is that he doesn't engage the whole truth. The whole truth of drug use and his assertions irt the social impact doesn't get measured in labs in Colombia, but in the homes of the drug users. Showing up on time for "free" drugs at Colombia is well within the abilities of an addict. Lost work income & unemployment, work place & car accidents, longterm/latent use health affects, lying, cheating, stealing, divorce, physical and emotional abuse etc are not a part his measured laboratory measured outcomes. Often times drugs are innocuous as they may be used in a controlled environment, but dangerous when combined with other risk behaviors and risk factors and for time periods longer than 4 years. So there is a decided lack of interpretation of what correlation and longitudinal studies are suggesting irt "recreational" drug use that is being ignored to fit the book's narrative.

      I do think his assertions that the "war on drugs" had a net negative impact is a very worthy criticism and the correctional systems as a whole are moving away from long term incarceration for drug offenses.

    5. PS. The argument is if recreational drug use is a fundamental right because it produces pleasure. I don't think you'll get a lot of Thomists to buy that. He doesn't appeal to any notion of "greater good" which is a medical ethical standard.

    6. There's a lot to unpack here. For starters what do you make of the established fact that, on average, people who have done illegal drugs tend to do better in life than those who haven't?

  19. Do you appreciate the Thomistic Personalism of John Paul II?

  20. I teach high school theology. This upcoming semester I will teach a sacraments course. What are your thoughts about the "sacramental principle" of Fr. Michael Himes? I worry that his perspective does not sufficiently consider the distinctiveness of sanctifying grace.

  21. Just a brief comments on this beautifully bright and snowy Sunday afternoon.

    After having followed a couple of links left for Ed Feser to comment on and reading through the material, it struck me how astonishingly peevish, petulant, theatrical, and even smarmy was the tone of so many passages.

    This was not the stuff of real philosophical mimds, nor of serious men. It is the polemic of coy and resentment laden soy boys pirouetting in the mirror, flaming others, and occasionally trying to shock the supposedly staid by intimating to uninterested others how much they enjoy pleasuring themselves.

    What shines through is that these are not so much intellectual exercises, as social exhibitions by hyper-social males looking for affirmations.

    Whether it is whining about the philistinism of his readers, the unappreciated purported brilliance of an argument, or an extended sneer that ruling-out metaphysics as a valid intellectual inquiry on the basis that X set of conditioning fundamental assumptions does not itself constitute a defacto metaphysics (he stamps foot) it all reads like juvenile petulance and snark.

    I don't quite understand how a serious philosopher like Feser can be expected to deal with what are, if you reduce it, not much more than mouthy punks.

    I suppose, being committed to the concept of one humanity, and the presumption that they have souls and right of recognition as a fellow kind, it is part of Feser's duty as he conceives it, and as Mr Neo-Angular put it in Pilgrim's Regress, to bear insults with patience.

    But, brother ...

    I'd just let them burn in Hell if they wanted. No matter how much it caused Hart to vapor.

    1. Quite an aggressive response to me asking Dr. Feser if he liked JPII.

    2. @Aquinobrobino

      Well, St. John Paul is not completely thomist, so you should not expect less. If we don't tread non-thomists like this we can someday have to deal with questions like "what do you think of Scotus/Augustine/Bonaventure?".

      Oh, the horror!


  22. Mr. ed.feser, could you tell me where I can find a defense to the resurrection of Christ quite strong or make a blog defending this from positions like Paulogia's etc ... sorry if I have flaws in English, the truth is the google translation since I do not speak almost any English.

    1. Look up names like Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. Mike Licona, Dr. Gary Habermas etc. I admit that i only know the mainstream guys.

    2. But they have quite a few problems with people like Paulogia. Look at the issue of the resurrection where they raise the evidences of this look. It deals with something like this; that the evidence in favor of the resurrection is hearsay and that they are not capable of proving the resurrection nor that they refer to a physical resurrection claiming that they do not comply with being (good evidence that this is supposed to be; relevance, materiality, admissibility , probative value and weight and instead of this they are rumors, evidence of character and collusion and for this reason I kept listening to the video that he sent me but they also touch that topic and they also say about those passages, you know if there is an answer anywhere to this ?, I would appreciate.

    3. All these objections are old and have been dealt with by the mainstream authors. For a detailed treatment by a young philosopher, see "Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ" by Andrew Loke.

      FFor a statistical treatment, see "Jesus’ Resurrection and Apparitions: A Bayesian Analysis" by Jake H. O’Connell or An unpublished detailed statistical analysis is

      Having said that, you cannot convince people like Paulogia, who has made his mind. He will regurgitate every objection even after you have disproved it. The argument for the resurrection is long and complicated and you have to approach it with an open mind.

  23. How far and where is up?
    How big is light?

  24. I'd like to see a serious discussion on how parts of English-speaking conservative Catholicism seem to be heading in a schismatic direction under the influence of ideologues. Some (like Rod Dreher and his "non-dogmatic" New Age version of "Orthodoxy") have already made the move, and incessantly invite us into the swamp. Others, like Peter Kwasniewski, have reinvented a quasi-Orthodox version of Catholicism that rejects the "spirit" of Vatican I and therefore of the Church, in favour of a Church in the image of conservatism. This amounts to historical determinism and folk culture as the defining element of Catholic liturgy and belief. It embodies a Protestant/Orthodox dislike for Papal jurisdiction.

    Others, yet again (all curiously connected in ideas and sympathy to the first two types) have openly adopted a Lutheran/Anabaptist attitude towards the Papacy, depicting it as connected to an "End Times" "Antichrist". Here Vigano (through the pen of Pietro Siffi)leads a pack of former traditionalist spokesmen who try to outdo each other thinking up the best anti-Papal insults.

    The traditional liturgy really seems to have been instrumentalised by such people. At this stage already, their mistakes and tendencies are worse than any attributed to Pope Francis or his predecessors.

    Naturally this is a complicated discussion because there is a crisis in the Church, largely caused by some of the ideas and tendencies encouraged by the last few Popes. Therefore the principle of action is to remain Catholic as completely as possible, while being conscious of the shortcomings of today's hierarchy.

    But the criterion for deciding what to make of pronouncements from the Church today should not be one's favourite ideology. Much of the reaction towards Pope Francis on issues like Fratelli Tutti, or his response to Covid, have been driven by conservatism and its philosophies, or Vigano's mad new Church of the Reset, instead of traditional Catholic doctrine.

    The answer to the problems in the Church today is not to try to change its constitution, which was established by Christ. The most Christian thing people can do (apart from prayer) is to shout very loudly at the Pope to be a real successor of St Peter. This is the only guarantee of a resolution to today's problems, as always.

    1. Interesting. Some from the catholic conservatives here on my country do criticize the pope a lot for having "communist" atitudes and views, with some at least flirting with sedevacantism. These catholics do admire the USA*, so there is probably some influence.

      The average anglo-conservative, from what i can see, does have a lot of anti-catholic influences, like classical liberals and libertarians,and so have a few flaws on antropology, the nature of freedom etc which tend to generate a wrong view of authority. Combine that with a weak confidence on God leading of the Church caused by a wordly focus on the actual political situation(and how much it looks irreversible) and you have a facility to the lack of trust on the current pope and clergy getting pretty strong. Add that these folks(at least on my country) have a bit of a political link with evangelicals and things get uglier.

      *indeed, their principal ideologue is a philosopher that lives in America for years already

    2. I think you're right. A bad remedy to a disease can often turn out to be worse than the original problem. Like the Protestant Reformation as the "solution" to the Renaissance, versus the Tridentine reform, and its defeat of the Renaissance. Some of the conservatives today are in serious danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    3. Miguel, who gets to decide what it means to be a "real successor of St Peter"? What do you say it means?

    4. Stephen, obviously not anybody. St. Paul, however, did rebuke the first Pope, so it certainly seems to be something Bishops may do if the situation warrants it. It would have to be done the right way and based on proper grounds. There are examples throughout history, though these have been extremely rare in the Tridentine Church it has been our great fortune to live in because of its doctrinal and moral rectitude and universalism.

      Well, to be a real successor to St. Peter means to confirm us in the Faith. It's been a matter of wide discussion for fifty years (and this blog has drawn attention to it) that ideological currents alien to the Church have established themselves widely within, and that recent Popes may have been favourable or equivocal. The fact that so many Catholics of good will cannot agree on what certain texts mean, and how to rationalise certain actions of recent Popes, surely points to huge shortcomings in the government of the Church over this period.

    5. I too would certainly expect that other bishops would be the first line of defense to call out the variance from the deposit of faith of a fellow bishop. But the conundrum arises when governance and authority is placed over and above that deposit, which ultimately as a first principle is found in the liturgical life of the Church.

    6. No! That's Kwasniewski's phony neo-Orthodox idea. Church authority decides what the liturgy is to be, and always has. Otherwise we turn into some kind of democratic, evolutionist folk religion.

      Jurisdiction, all of which is a participation in that of the Pope, is obviously there to safeguard the Faith, not to invent it. How can we be sure it won't do this? Humanly, we have no guarantee at all and there is no human mechanism, no democracy, no collegialism that can guarantee it.

      We've only got the promise of Christ and the proof of history, surely that's enough.

      Vatican I didn't only declare that the Pope was infallible in certain conditions; it also declared that his faith "will not fail"!

      In the meantime, I fully agree it's worth making lots of noise to "help" the Pope in a time like this, the aftermath of the Council.

  25. What does it mean when it is said that God does not have any real relation to creatures, but creatures have real relations to God? Wouldn't that mean that God doesn't really love us? Any reading material on this would be helpful.

    1. "Real relation" is a technical term in this case, having to do with whether the members of the relation can bring about effects in each other. Thus, God can cause changes or certain effects to be made present in us. We, meanwhile, can do no such thing to God. He is impassible, meaning there is no cause outside Himself which He can be subjected to.

      So to your example, God does certainly love us, because it is through that love that He brings about our existing and our having grace, among other good things. Yet, when we love God in return, we are not causing something to change or be effected in God. In this sense we can say that creatures have real relations to God (we depend on/are caused by Him) but He doesn't have real relations to us (since He in no way depends on or is caused by us or anything we do).

    2. Hi ccmnxc,

      Thank you for your comment. I'm not convinced, however. On the Thomistic account, God’s knowledge and love of creatures exists only within creatures and is wholly external to God: for on the Thomistic view, God would still be exactly the same in every way, even if He hadn’t made us. But if there’s nothing real within God corresponding to His love of me, and no accidental property of God corresponding to His love of me (for on the Thomistic account, a simple God has no accidents), then why should I love God back? The only appropriate relationship to have with such a Deity is a hard-nosed, opportunistic one. One might serve such a Deity, but one would never love Him.

      A Thomist might respond, “Well, even if God doesn’t feel anything for you, at least He keeps you in existence, doesn’t He? And if He's prepared a Heaven for you, isn't that a good reason to love Him?" No, it's not. Here's why.

      I maintain that it would be utterly irrational to thank God for my existence, unless there’s some gratitude-inspiring activity that God performs for us, such that (a) God doesn't have to perform the activity, (b) if God hadn’t performed this activity, I wouldn’t be here, and (c) the activity is motivated by a concern for my well-being. Now, on the Thomistic account, God’s activity of making me is nothing more than (i) my existing and (ii) my depending on God. So, which of these is the gratitude-inspiring activity?

      It can't be (i). If it were (i), then condition (b), which stipulates that if God hadn’t performed this activity, I wouldn’t be here, would translate to “If I didn’t exist, then I wouldn’t be here,” which is trivially true.

      Could it be (ii), my dependence on God? If it is, then condition (b) translates to “If God didn’t exist, then I wouldn’t be here.” Is God’s existence a good reason to thank God? No, because on the classical theistic account, God cannot help but exist: He’s a necessary Being. God’s existence is beyond even God’s control. So why thank Him for simply being? God’s existence also fails condition (c) above: it is not motivated by a concern for my well-being, as God would still exist even if I did not.

      So, it seems that there is no reason to thank God for my existence, if Aquinas is right about the way He relates to us.

      One can love a Heavenly Father, but one cannot love a rock.

    3. @Vincent

      ccmnxc post seems to only defend the claim that on the thomistic account it is true that God love us*, not that we should love Him back(he does not negate it, though). This makes your post a bit random, but it is the place to do that, i guess.

      About your argument, though, i can't help but feel that it gets on subjective territory. What makes someone or something worth of love seems to vary, so we would need proper argumentation here, one that dealed with Aquinas arguments for the virtue of religion.

      For instance, one can feel a immense feeling of gratitute for a famous artist or a burocrat that has no knowledge of his existence thanks to being helped by this person. One can feel gratitute to destiny while not being a theist or for another unanimate thing like a helpful instrument or plant. It seems a pretty human thing to relate to someone or something that can't do the same, so it is not clear to me that the argument against loving Aquinas God works out.

      Not that i don't understand your point. As a christian i don't deal with that but if i was a perennialist or advaitist i could see myself having problems with loving the divine. I just can't see it being more that a pyschological thing.

      *Of course, one could argue that His "love" is completely unlike what we call love, but we thomists aways responds with "so, are you saying that you can't use a term with a univocal meaning to refer to God? Where is the problem here?".

    4. Vincent, I'm not sure why you think that Thomism holds God does not love his creatures.

  26. Can we expect a review of Raymond Tallis latest book: "Freedom: An Impossible Reality"?

  27. A topic which I find fascinating and it would be nice to develop in a A-T perspective is the tension between certainty (which is personal) and objectivity (which is of a third party).
    Happy New Year 2022!

  28. Dr. Feser, if it is considered axiomatic that the rule of faith depends on, is built on, and can be understood in the first place by the rule of prayer (and not vice versa), can it not also be said of the reverse? To wit, "what we do not pray, we do not believe."

  29. I am going through this interesting essay: "Karl Marx: Communist as Religious Eschatologist". Rothbardt is notwithstanding his allegedly poor philosophical skills, a remarkable thinker. In this essay I believe he really touches on the crux of what Marxism really is i.e. a deep, twisted, confusing, Santa-Claus like dialectic assault to reason, history, logic, and common sense. One may wonder how to explain his immense influence. Thoughts?

  30. Aquinobrobino January 2, 2022 at 5:52 PM said," Quite an aggressive response to me asking Dr. Feser if he liked JPII."

    I am fairly certain that that comment was not written on the basis of some misunderstanding due to mere comment appearance juxtaposition, to anything I wrote.

    But just to be clear - clearer than my actual comment - my remarks were directed solely at the specifically linked-to materials of Hart's "The obscenity of belief in an eternal hell", and at the anti-metaphysics bluster of the blogger. And, at their work alone: neither at he who offered the links, nor at anyone else.

    I do have extremely strong negative views regarding the current Pope, of the gliding sodomite infested hierarchy of the present institutional Roman Catholic Church, of the abominable notion of horizontal worship, of the Vatican's anti-Americanism, and with regard to Vatican leftists' attempts to convert the institution into a veritable NGO; but I will leave it to practicing Catholics to sort through that - here at least.

  31. Is presentism compatible with teleportation? A lot of people accept the metaphysical possibility of teleportation, so if it's incompatible with presentism, that would be an epistemic cost for presentists.

    Here's why it might be thought of as impossible: it would involve the disintegration of (and presumably annihilation of) a thing followed by its recreation somewhere else. But then what would ground the identity between these things? How could it be the same thing? This is the standard puzzle about teleportation, but eternalists and others can say that things just exist four-dimensionally anyway. However, presentists believe that only "present" things exist, so how could one thing which has been annihilated, and then reassembled in the future, share the same identity?

    1. It seems to me that people do not rule out teleportation precisely because they assume eternalism, thus giving them continual metaphysical grounding for the object.

  32. Mr. Feser,

    Regarding death penalty, would you say that it can also be applied to people who are not guilty anymore? For example, imagine a murderer is condemned to death, but he remains many decades in death row, and all those decades give him enough time to repent, and to become a saint, and he even starts performing miracles (a very improbable situation of course, but still possible, and the case of Alessandro Serenelli may come to mind). Would it still be morally okay to execute him? Intuitively, it seems wrong to execute a saint and a miracle worker. And given that every person not guilty of mortal sin is technically a saint (i.e. someone who deserves Heaven), it seems that it is moral to execute a criminal only if he hasn't repented yet, and certainly not if he has become a saint.

    A similar question can be asked about self-defense. If an innocent sleepwalker or lunatic tries to kill you thinking that you are a dangerous bear, do you have the right to kill him in self-defense? Even if you want to preserve your own life, the end doesn't justify the means, and I don't see why the argument against killing an innocent in general would not also apply here. Which would mean you don't have a right to self-defense in such case.

    Same thing with just war theory. When saint Augustine says it is justified to kill in a just war, it is on the assumption that the opposite side is guilty of unjust aggression. But I am not sure that saint Augustine took into account the fact that not every soldier on the oppsite side is guilty. And given that we know that some of them are most certainly innocent, and also given that the end doesn't justify the means, and again, since I don't see why the argument against killing an innocent in general would not also apply here, it seems that we are actually not justified in killing in a just war (except when we have good reasons to think that all the soldiers of the opposite side are guilty, which is practically never the case).

    1. It appears that you are confounding the justness of the death penalty with the prudence of applying it according to the disposition of the guilty party. If the crime merits death, it merits death. IF the crime merits long imprisonment, it merits long imprisonment. If the crime merits both, it merits both. This is true regardless of whether the guilty party converts and repents. Now, it may indeed be imprudent to put a repentant miracle working saint to death, but that's a different question and it's answer does not reflect on the morality of the death penalty per se.

      With regards to lunatics and sleepwalkers, it seems to me that while they hold no culpability for their actions, they still are objectively guilty of them (seeing as they actually factually commit them), and thus self defense is justified. my self defense against an attacker is not predicated on the intentions of the attacker, but on the real events of them attacking.

      The same can be said regarding just war.

    2. From your answer I get that the subjective disposition of a man doesn't matter when deciding whether to kill him or not. For you, what matters is what the action itself deserves, independently of the subjective guilt of the man who does the action. So the repentance of a criminal doesn't make it immoral to execute him, and the absence of guilt in a sleepwalking aggressor doesn't make it immoral to kill him.
      However, it seems to me obvious that the guilt of someone should matter. Even the legal system recognizes this: if a man kills someone unintentionally, he will not be punished as much as a man who commited premeditated murder. Why? Because the man who killed unintentionally is obviously less guilty than the one who committed murder. So it seems to me that we cannot separate the question of whether an action deserves death from the question of the person's level of guilt.

    3. >From your answer I get that the subjective disposition of a man doesn't matter when deciding whether to kill him or not.

      You should not get such an idea from my answer. It is precisely in the prudential discernment of *which* among a list of moral punishments best fits the guilty party where their subjective disposition is taken into account. Murder merits death. That does not necessitate that every murderer must per se be put to death. It just means that the action has earned it.

  33. There is a question I have long been thinking about and wanted to throw here in case Feser or someone had an answer, and it is that of the legitimacy of the Inquisition. To be more specific: in the light of natural law, is it morally admissible to punish heresy with the death penalty? (given that specific historical context, needless to say that I am in no way advocating for the return of such punishment) Or was the tribunal of the Inquisition intrinsically immoral, even in principle, and a grave error? St. Thomas answers the first question in the affirmative, if I am not mistaken.

    All this beyond contingent issues, such as the fact that this tribunal was, at least in the case of the Spanish Inquisition (probably the best known), one of the courts that offered the greatest procedural guarantees at the time, including a strict regulation of the use of torture (contrary to all the inquisition mythology, it was applied infrequently and under strict rules to avoid death or amputations: no walling, no beating of the joints, the iron maiden was never used; confessions under torture were not valid until ratified by the prisoner himself hours later, etc.)

    1. I could be wrong, but i think that the death penalty could be used on a heretic if the guy was a legit danger to the common good and there was no other mean to stop him. On certain societies, a heretic can gravely endanger the social order, being them a agressor that merits self-defense. The fact that he can make people lose more important goods that life does not help.

      Of course, as you mentioned, if the medieval kingdoms who used the inquisition had the authority to kill heretics thanks to the conditions at the time involves cintigent factors and so is a diferent question.

  34. I have a question that has been percolating for a while. However, I'm not sure I understand the interpretation of the underlying ideas from a Scholastic viewpoint, so perhaps the question is moot.

    It is my understanding that people who have improper bodily forms are morally allowed, and even can be encouraged, to correct those forms.

    To look at another underlying idea in a less-controversial setting first, are people with Trisomy-21 (a third copy of chromosome 21) considered to be improperly formed when they develop Down's Syndrome, or are they following the form as directed by the chromosomes in their body, even when there are differences from a more common human form?

    For those that consider people with Down's syndrome to be improperly formed, can you find an objective reason that trans people can not lay claim to also being improperly formed to match the incorrect sex? That a person who believes themselves a man/woman, yet having been born into the body of a female/male, can not say they they suffered from improper forming due to their genetic make-up?

    I'm not interested in a discussion of the morality of this position, nor positions based on faith, and will likely ignore most such responses. If you have an objective reason (beyond mere frequency) for accepting the person with Down's Syndrome as being badly formed and denying this for trans people, I am very interested in learning it.

    1. The malformation is in said person's belief, not their body

    2. "If you have an objective reason (beyond mere frequency) for accepting the person with Down's Syndrome as being badly formed and denying this for trans people, I am very interested in learning it."

      Just out of curiosity, if a man claims to be a woman, on what objective basis do you judge that he really is a woman, trapped in a man's body as it were, and not just a man with a wrong perception of his own body?

      I am sure even you can understand that, whatever answer you give to the question, it does not make much sense in the case of Down Syndrome.

    3. Hello, Onebrow.

      I'm not sure about your comparisons, but let's start with your first example. I think it's acknowledged even by those of a secular bent that those with Down's Syndrome are 'improperly formed', which is why there was that whole controversy when Richard Dawkins argued that it would be immoral for a woman to bring a child with DS into the world, suggesting that she should 'abort it and try again'.

      I don't understand your analogy with transgenderism, but your mention of Trisomy-21 and 'genetic makeup' has me thinking that what you have in mind are intersex people?

    4. No man can know that he is "really" a woman because, not actually being a woman, he has no experience of what it is like to be a woman. If he thinks he is "trans" he has a problem with his reasoning, not his biological gender. A lot of people have killed themselves after being talked into irreversible procedures on their bodies, only to discover when it's too late that while it was titillating to pretend to be a woman trying to become one doesn't work and merely leaves one without hope or actual gender. The potential boyfriends walk when they find out the truth.

      Tom Cohoe

    5. My wife complains bitterly how unfair it is for these men to claim they are women without putting in their dues. She says she cannot accept them into the sisterhood of women if they do not bleed once a month and can potentially get pregnant. They just want to wear nice clothing, high heels and have boob jobs and do all the fun things women do & skip over female puberty altogether and the pain of growing up a girl.

      I support her view 100%. I cannot accept anybody into the brotherhood of men unless they naturally grow hair on their chests and faces and other things.

      If yer a man who thinks he is a woman I suspect he needs to alter his thinking. It is better than cutting up his body.

    6. grodrigues,

      I don't know that I have an objective basis, or even that there might be one. As a male who has always considered himself to be be a boy/man, I've never had to face this sort of problem.

      Further, since I see gender as social, as opposed to the physical sex (these are oversimplifications, but I think they will do for now), I'm not sure there is an objective answer to that question.

    7. DrYogami,

      This is beside the point, but there are many activists who would deny people with Down's syndrome are improperly formed, and would instead say they are who God/their DNA made them to be.

      No, I am not referring to intersex people. I am referring to people that have a typical development, but see themselves as having bodies that do not match who they understand themselves to be.

    8. Unknown/Tom Cohoe/Son of Ya'Kov,

      Thank you for your sincere comments, but they did not help with my question, and in this thread I don't want to argue with what you did say, nor can I agree with it.

    9. @ One Brow,

      Ok you don't have to argue, but your ideas are nonsensical and deadly.

      Tom Cohoe

    10. I am referring to people that have a typical development, but see themselves as having bodies that do not match who they understand themselves to be.

      Okay, well then I guess I'm kind of baffled, because it seems like a strange comparison. Down's Syndrome has to do with an objective chromosomal disorder, while transgenderism has to do with a subjective self-identification.

    11. “It is my understanding that people who have improper bodily forms are morally allowed, and even can be encouraged, to correct those forms.”

      Yes – that is correct. From an Thomistic perspective, improper versus proper is based on determining what the proper essence of a thing is. Essences, from a philosophical perspective, is usually broad. Like rational animal. We are part of the genus Animal with the specific difference Rational. The tools of science can drill much deeper than this high level, of course. Through science, we can discover many things about ourselves and ourbodies that are suboptimal. For example, I may have a genetic trait that leads to a predisposition to a cancer of some sort. Now, Cancer is clearly bad, and if I could fix that genetic error, I would.

      “To look at another underlying idea in a less-controversial setting first, are people with Trisomy-21 (a third copy of chromosome 21) considered to be improperly formed when they develop Down's Syndrome, or are they following the form as directed by the chromosomes in their body, even when there are differences from a more common human form?”

      So, first of all, being improperly formed does not mean someone is subhuman. It just means that the optimal configuration of a substance’s properties has been frustrated. The optimal configuration for a human being is to have a set number of Trisomy-21 chromosomes. A suboptimal configuration is to have an extra copy. How do we know it is suboptimal? Because of a slew of health issues, learning problems, and so on that are debilitating to a person with Down syndrome proves this to be the case.

      “For those that consider people with Down's syndrome to be improperly formed, can you find an objective reason that trans people can not lay claim to also being improperly formed to match the incorrect sex? That a person who believes themselves a man/woman, yet having been born into the body of a female/male, can not say they they suffered from improper forming due to their genetic make-up?”

      So, first of all, I want to make it clear that Down Syndrome folks are lovely and wonderful. They are human beings, but have a genetic flaw that causes them all sorts of health problems. And I think if any person with down syndrome could correct this problem, they would. A trans person has no such genetic flaw. The cause of gender dysphorea is not known. It could be genetic or it could be psychological.

      So I think the comparison between folks with Down Syndrome and those who feel they are born in the wrong body does not hold, in my opinion. But, for the sake of argument, lets assume that the cause is genetic or psychological. In either case, we would have to judge whether the cause is beneficial for the person or not. If the cause is genetic, should we see it as a suboptimal chromosomal error, or a perfectly allowable genetic difference, in the same class as say, genetic differences that cause differences in hair, eye, or skin color?

      “If you have an objective reason (beyond mere frequency) for accepting the person with Down's Syndrome as being badly formed and denying this for trans people, I am very interested in learning it.”

      Clearly people with Down Syndrome suffer a massive number of negative health consequences. And I am sure any person with Down Syndrome would jump at the chance of getting that genetic defect corrected, if that were a possibility. And, along the same lines, I think there are good reasons to see gender dysphorea as a mental pathology that no amount of gender affirmation or gender transition procedures can treat.

    12. @One Brow:

      "Further, since I see gender as social, as opposed to the physical sex (these are oversimplifications, but I think they will do for now), I'm not sure there is an objective answer to that question."

      Not surprising that you have no objective basis to make the determination, but then why the comparison with Down Syndrome? Are you seriously suggesting that Down Syndrome is a social construct? And if a man claiming to be a woman is playing to the social expectations, why the push for mutilation?

      These are all rhetorical questions; your view is complete nonsense beneath refutation, were it not for the extreme harm it fosters. It is a wondrous spectacle though, to watch naturalists turn into full-blown Gnostic Dualists. The philosophical irony is truly delightful.

    13. Tom Cohoe,

      Yes, I understand your position. I also disagree. Thank you.

    14. DrYogami,
      Okay, well then I guess I'm kind of baffled, because it seems like a strange comparison. Down's Syndrome has to do with an objective chromosomal disorder, while transgenderism has to do with a subjective self-identification.

      If you mean "subjective" in the sense of "feelings, tastes, or opinions", than the self-understanding of a trans person is no more subjective than my understanding I am a man. Would you refer to your own gender as subjective?

      My question whether a a trans person would be able to, in a Scholastic framework, identify their chromosomes as being abnormal for their gender. If not, what is preventing that?

    15. Daniel,

      I appreciate your willingness to answer my questions. Thank you. Also, I very much appreciate your full-throated affirmation of the humanity and worth of those with Down's Syndrome, and agree entirely.

      If there are people with trisomy-21 who suffer from Down's Syndrome and a few who do not, would we still be able to identify trisomy-21 itself as the condition that is suboptimal? Is it a numbers thing?

      But, for the sake of argument, lets assume that the cause is genetic or psychological. In either case, we would have to judge whether the cause is beneficial for the person or not. If the cause is genetic, should we see it as a suboptimal chromosomal error, or a perfectly allowable genetic difference, in the same class as say, genetic differences that cause differences in hair, eye, or skin color?

      Fair. Understnding this is for the sake of the argument only, would being misgendered by other people, and the psychological discomfort associated with this, qualify as creating a sub-optimal condition to you?

    16. @Daniel "I think there are good reasons to see gender dysphorea as a mental pathology that no amount of gender affirmation or gender transition procedures can treat." Can you enumerate those good reasons?


    17. Onebrow,

      If you mean "subjective" in the sense of "feelings, tastes, or opinions", than the self-understanding of a trans person is no more subjective than my understanding I am a man. Would you refer to your own gender as subjective?

      No, but then I tend to use the word 'gender' in the old-fashioned sense: as in synonymous with sex. The modern sense, in my opinion, makes mischief with words and frankly seems content-free when I really try to parse it out. I 'identify' as a man because I have a penis and I can't get pregnant, though I can impregnate others (barring some defect). It's that simple from my point of view. Whether I 'feel' like a man (whatever that means) seems irrelevant.

      My question whether a a trans person would be able to, in a Scholastic framework, identify their chromosomes as being abnormal for their gender.

      How can chromosomes be 'abnormal for gender' in a modern sense? This just makes a mishmash of modern and Scholastic concepts (or ANY mix of modern and traditional concepts, for that matter).

    18. DrYogami,

      Thank you for your reply. I don't think our discussion is touching upon my initial questions. I'm not interested in disputing any of the statements you made, and I know you made them sincerely and in good faith.

    19. “If there are people with trisomy-21 who suffer from Down's Syndrome and a few who do not, would we still be able to identify trisomy-21 itself as the condition that is suboptimal? Is it a numbers thing?”

      I think, that only illustrates that we don’t know everything there is to know about Down Syndrome yet. Perhaps there are some other genetic mutations that somehow compensate for what would manifest as Down Syndrom in a typical person with the extra trisomy-21 Chromosome. The science needs to tell us. Not a question for philosophy.

      “Fair. Understanding this is for the sake of the argument only, would being misgendered by other people, and the psychological discomfort associated with this, qualify as creating a sub-optimal condition to you?”

      So, Thomists believe that there is such a thing as human nature. All evil -both of the natural kind and the moral kind – must be measured by that standard. The nature, or essence, of a thing defines how its constituent parts ought to behave. It is part of DNA’s function, as defined by human nature, that it replicate. And there are very specific parameters that define this replication – it must not replicate too much, or cancer ensues. It must not replicate too little, or other problems occur. Errors in its makeup typically cause other issues. However, not all such DNA errors cause the same level of issues/evils.

      Similarly, being misgendered by people presupposes that by nature, a person with gender dysphoria, was supposed to be a man rather than a woman, or a woman rather than a man. In other words, their natures as women or men, were so distorted that they actually had the opposite nature than the ones they actually show the characteristics of. We must first accept this as a scientifically established truth before we can accept the further claim that misgendering someone in such a situation would be considered a further development of that initial scientifically established physical evil of being misgendered.

      But, as science has not established any such physical evidence of such a drastic physical malformation, and indeed, the exact opposite seems to be the case, then we would have to interpret the evil of misgendering, as caused, not by evil people doing the misgendering. Those people are accurately gendering the person in question. The evil of misgendering is caused by the gender dysphoria, which is not a physical problem, but a psychological one. The only reasonable solution for one such as this is to go through therapy to try to accept their actual nature as men or women.

      Hopefully this helps. And along the same lines as I mentioned above, people with gender dysphoria are not subhuman and they are often lovely and wonderful people. And just like anyone with a psychological issue, they need to be loved and respected.


    20. @ One Brow

      >I don't want to argue with what you did say, nor can I agree with it.

      Very well. Looks like ye have yer hands full. Cheers.

    21. Son of Ya'Kov,
      Very well. Looks like ye have yer hands full. Cheers.

      Indeed, I did get one commentator (out of 6) to actually address my question, while the rest offered the usual litany of insults and virtue signaling. One suffices.

      These are all rhetorical questions;

      Then I have no reason to answer them.

      It is a wondrous spectacle though, to watch naturalists turn into full-blown Gnostic Dualists. The philosophical irony is truly delightful.

      I would think even you would understand that there is a difference between male brains and female brains, and that a person whose female brain is inside of a male body (or vice-versa) would find that condition suboptimal. Outside of that, your analysis is beneath contempt.

  35. You've said various times that the damned cannot change because a soul with a body cannot change course (or change at all). But all are resurrected. Why can they not change after the resurrection?

    1. I'am not sure that this view is correct, but he does briefly mention it here:

      "But might not the resurrection of the body restore the possibility of a course correction? Aquinas answers in the negative. The nature of the resurrection body is necessarily tailored to the nature of the soul to which it is conjoined, and that soul is now locked on to whatever end it opted for upon death. The soul prior to death was capable of change in its basic orientation only because it came into existence with its body and thus never had a chance to “set,” as it were. One it does “set,” nothing can alter its orientation again.

      An analogy might help. Consider wet clay which is being molded into a pot. As long as it remains wet, it can alter its basic shape. Once it is dried in the furnace, though, it is locked into the shape it had while in the furnace. Putting it in water once again wouldn’t somehow make it malleable again. Indeed, the water would be forced to conform itself to the shape of the pot rather than vice versa.

      The soul is like that. While together with the body during life, it is like the wet clay. Death locks it into one basic orientation or another, just as the furnace locks the clay into a certain definite shape. The restoration of the body cannot change its basic orientation again any more than wetting down a pot or filling it with water can make it malleable again."

    2. Thank you! That does address my question and give Ed's position (whether right or wrong, as you say).

  36. "If an innocent sleepwalker or lunatic tries to kill you thinking that you are a dangerous bear, do you have the right to kill him in self-defense?"

    Nobody asked me, but I cannot resist: You have the right top stop him from killing you, and if that involves his death, then so be it.

    Same thing with just war theory. When saint Augustine says it is justified to kill in a just war, it is on the assumption that the opposite side is guilty of unjust aggression. But I am not sure that saint Augustine took into account the fact that not every soldier on the oppsite side is guilty. And given that we know that some of them are most certainly innocent, and also given that the end doesn't justify the means, and again, since I don't see why the argument against killing an innocent in general would not also apply here, it seems that we are actually not justified in killing in a just war (except when we have good reasons to think that all the soldiers of the opposite side are guilty, which is practically never the case).

    Geez. If they are innocent members of a military pursuing an unjust aggression, how is it that they retain their innocence? Are they less morally responsible for what they do in "innocently" aggressing, than the defender is in resisting the aggression?

    Some may have noticed that drug lords are now sending out young kids as killers. Presumably some of these children are mentally impaired or deluded enough not to be fully responsible for their acts.

    So what do you do when one of them tries to kill your kid sister? Die and then let him kill her too?

    I don't actually believe that those questions above were serious, but then as Feser advised, we need to lighten up sometimes.

  37. I think that Ed would rather take a cat for a long walk

  38. If God is omniscient does he create creatures that he knows will die in their sins and be committed to eternal damnation and if so why?

    1. This recent post from Ed will probably be helpful as a introduction:

  39. "There is a question I have long been thinking about and wanted to throw here in case Feser or someone had an answer, and it is that of the legitimacy of the Inquisition.
    ... this tribunal was, at least in the case of the Spanish Inquisition ..."

    The Spanish Inquisition? With all due respect, I believe nobody was expecting the arrival of the Spanish Inquisition!

    (Just taking your advice, Prof ... hopefully not too far.) And Happy New Year to all.

  40. Okay, Ed Feser: just read the Bul Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio (Pope Paul IV, 1559) and adopt the sedevacantist position already. Because this is getting ridiculous.

    You can read also the letter #257 of St Basil for authoirzed advice of how to navigate these dark times.

  41. Does the Garden of Eden story show that the essence of Christianity is opposed to gaining knowledge?

    1. well I'm sure there will be atheists who say the bible is opposed to seeking knowledge, but I think we should consider Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

      Scripture tells you there is nothing wrong with asking questions and even encourages us to do so.

    2. I take your point that other parts of the Bible might be taken to suggest the exact opposite, but my question remains unanswered.

    3. Anonymous said: Does the Garden of Eden story show that the essence of Christianity is opposed to gaining knowledge?"

      There's a Quora Digest question if I ever saw one, and it deserves a Quora style answer.

      Let's quote some relevant passages and start with those immediately preceding the Garden:

      "God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. ... and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over ... every living thing that moves on the earth.'
      "... Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

      Thus it's stipulated that man was made in "His own image" and given dominion over all the earth. How can this set-up reasonably contribute to implying that the essence of Christianity is opposed to knowledge, given these initial conditions? It obviously doesn't at this point.

      But, to the Garden story itself as a next step.

      "The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. ..."
      And then there's some business about rivers and precious stones, and then ...
      " ... God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die'."

      ... So, God made Adam a slew of plants and animals which Adam got to name and use; and when that did not seem to quite fill the companionship bill, Adam got - flesh of his flesh - a real girl type companion named Eve, in order to keep him occupied with the pleasant duty of filling the world with more humankind. So, Adam got to know all the animals by name; and Eve he also knew, rather more intimately, as they say. No lack of knowledge there, it seems.

      So what's the deal with the tree? It turns out that the tree mentioned is NOT some "Tree of Knowledge" per se; but rather, "The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil". Adam, living as he did a life of ease and peace, within a protected and managed environment - for that is what a garden is - had knowledge of the existence of the categories of good and evil, but did not have that up-close and personally ingested and expressed comparative knowledge of the wants and labors and futilities and ultimately the decline into privations and nothingness, which basically define evil.

      Eventually of course, he did sample the "fruit" of that "tree"; and took it and its effects right into his body and into his lineage as a consequence. The serpent made dancing with nothingness look wise and god-like to a mere creature; one who, while made in the image and likeness of God, was nonetheless a contingent being and not the creator.

      Adam was told by God that there was "fire". He had information it existed. He was warned against playing with that "fire" and of the ensuing consequences which would follow, but he did it anyway because he was convinced it would make him a peer to God. Instead Adam got not only knowledge, but consequently, a kind of knowledge which he was not fitted by his nature as a contingent creation, to endure and to live with, while living as he had lived before.

      Or, so it seems to me. Since I'm just making this up on the fly. But I hope it helps anyway.

      And please hit the "like" button on your way out.

    4. I don't think so. The sin of Adam and Eve wasn't simply the acquisition of knowledge. Their sin was the manner in which they acquired the knowledge. Here is how I think of it: the difference between humans (material persons) and angels (immaterial persons) is angels come into existence with full natural knowledge. Their coming into existence with full natural knowledge fits their mode of being - for they are immaterial and, as a result, don't exist in time in the way we do. Therefore, it isn't fitting for them to acquire knowledge and grow over time. However, we are material beings. Therefore, we are meant to grow over time; we are beings that have histories. Here is how this connects to Adam and Eve: Adam and Eve were supposed to acquire knowledge of good and evil, but they were supposed to over time, as their characters grew and matured and they grew more deeply in love with God with greater depth and dimensionality as they were acquiring the knowledge. However, by eating from the tree, they skipped this process to acquire the knowledge. What was supposed to be knowledge acquired with a concomitant growing adoration for the divine was knowledge acquired through the damaging of their relationship with God (especially since He explicitly told them not to do this).

    5. Cheers for your answers DMW and Michael- very helpful. I think the knowledge by description/knowledge of acquaintance distinction is the key to it- they understood evil intellectually, but wanted to actually experience it, which is wrong. Also, they disobeyed God.

    6. Anonymous said on January 5, 2022 at 2:42 AM

      Cheers for your answers DMW and Michael- very helpful."

      Ahhh. Now I feel really guilty. But maybe, despite having engaged in some lighthearted Quora Digest mimicry while employing an only semi-serious tone, the outline was nonetheless not, necessarily, ridiculous. Insofar at least, as the presented reflections did in fact represent the sustained if casual ruminations of some years previous as to one possible interpretation of the Garden of Eden story.

      Kind of aligns with Lewis' take, anyway.

      I confess that I need to more carefully consider in future whether a question is really facetious or not.

      Ed Feser probably has attracted a somewhat more youthful, earnest, and more explicitly religion-minded following than showed up in "the old days"; or that I noticed back then.

      Maybe I should blame it on him, for advising us to all lighten up a bit. Yeah he's got broad shoulders ...

    7. Nah, don't worry- I found your answer funny as well as interesting. It's probably partly my fault that it was misinterpreted as I asked it so starkly rather than elaborating on what I meant exactly, possible counterarguments etc. that it inevitably seemed unserious as an inquiry. I only did it that way because so often you'll get really simple questions being asked on blogs like this one seemingly in as many words as possible, and I thought concision was a better option, especially if I wanted to be answered.

    8. The Garden of Eden narrative can be read in any number of ways, within orthodox tradition, and then again within Jewish tradition, and then again by gnostics et al. It is my understanding that neither "Original Sin" nor "the Fall" are the acquisition of knowledge per se, but the conduct of Adam in taking of the fruit of the forbidden Tree and eating. The doing what was specifically prohibited is the sin of self-idolatry or pride (under the power of concupiscence, now unleashed from God's command), and the consequence for Adam and his progeny is double-mindedness", God's command and Adam's idolatrous autonomy. It is noteworthy that this etymological meaning of the word "bad" in many languages, including Old English, related also to hermaphroditism (2-spirited persons).

      More anthropologically, René Girard has developed a theory that suggests perhaps that, above what I have already said, the story can be interpreted in relation to mimetic desire, the transformation of violence into culture via the sacred, and thereby the enslavement of mankind into pagan worship of false gods, rooted in scapegoating violence. Under this theory, we could read the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad as the knowledge of the sacred, whose fruit "is death", i.e. human sacrifice. Under this interpretation, Adam is creature set apart from the culture of sacrifice, practiced be preceding hominins who supply "the dust" of Adam's existence. These hominins hear and serve the commands of the sacred (see Julian Jaynes and Ian McGilchrist), in a completely unconscious or unfree manner. Adam is created de novo from amongst these hominins, and given the true God's grace and His direct commands, including to refrain from this culture of blood sacrifice. Adam fails this test under the influence of Eve, who is under the influence of the Nachash (usually translated as snake, but an equally valid translation is "diviner", as in, priest of the archaic sacred, who himself was under the influence of his gods, who can be collectively called "Satan"), and thereby humanity *as Adamites* falls back into the practice of the archaic sacred, which is the culture of death.

  42. Papal infallibility was declared in 1870, just a few months before the last remnants of the Papal States were annexed to Italy. The timing is very suspect. Isn't it reasonable to think that it was just a political move to try to strengthen the authority of the Pope, who was desperately trying to preserve his temporal power?

    1. If you are looking for a historical reason for the declaration of Infallibility, you don't even need to go that far. The heresy of Gallicanism, within the Church, was a major reason. But this often happens with dogmatic declarations. The theology is and has been there, but there is a need to define it precisely because it is being threatened. So in other words, what you say is certainly possible, but while it is not entirely irrelevant, the charge could be true and the theology still be completely correct. The Popes acted on as if the theology of infallibility were true long before the definition came (and the political events adjacent to that declaration).

    2. ccmnxc, you say the theology is and has been there. But the collect for the Feast of the Chair of St Peter has ZERO correlation to the claims of Pastor Aeternus. How do you explain this gap?

    3. Two points:

      First, are we talking collect from the ordinary form or extraordinary form? The former was written after Pastor Aeternus, so that can hardly count as evidence against it not being in the tradition. The latter would have been in place well before Pastor Aeternus, but it isn't clear to me that there is zero correlation, since the collect explicitly mentions "the pontifical function of binding and loosing" (ligandi atque solvendi pontificium tradidisti).

      Second, what exactly are you hoping for a collect to address? The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter is a good deal broader than the controversial claims of Pastor Aeternus regarding infallibility and juridical primacy. For a short prayer on a feast dedicated to something larger in scope than the touchy points of Pastor Aeternus, I'm not sure we can reasonably expect the (quite specific) correlations you are asking for.

    4. Well, if Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi is in any way axiomatic and normative, there would be any number of prayers one could point to that would be supportive of, elaborate on, and re-enforce any and all faith requirements, correct? One need only read or hear the Gloria, for example, for even the most casual observer to learn why these people are gathered and Whom it is they are worshipping and why.

  43. Despite the whole trans stuff there is some gaps on thomistic dealings with sex and gender*, so lets see if i can learn a few things here: Suppose that there are alien species of rational animals that do not have sexes, there is no diference between men and women on their biology, how should we refer to they? Should we expect they to obey our gender roles or not? On fiction, the most common aproach seems to refer to the aliens like they were from the sex that they look and behave closer to(like, acting like a masculine-looking alien is a male).

    Another question, if we took this aproach and had, say, a alien whose species we associate with being male but who behaved like a female,should we insist on acting like the alien is male or,since he has no sex anyway, should we just let the alien pick whatever looks best?

    *to be fair, the whole debate would be uninteligible just a few centuries ago

    1. If there was an alien race without sex differences, we would expect them to have sexual norms that are totally alien from ours. Similarly, an alien race whose sex differences were different from human sex differences (for example, the females were naturally stronger than the males, as is the case with many animal species here on Earth) would also have different sexual norms. Neither would be inclined to adopt our sex norms any more than we as humans would be inclined to adopt the sex norms of other animal species on Earth.

      I don't think that there is a gap in the Thomistic dealings on sex. The whole modern debate on transgenderism would have been and still is incoherent.

    2. I see, it is true that we would expect the aliens to have a completely diferent collection of sexual norms, so i suppose that how to deal with they would had to be decided on a case by case basis.

      Never seen this being brought up before, likely because the fictional examples are of, well, imaginary societies that were based on our own.

      And about the gap, i'am talking more on dealing with the modern concept of gender and all that. One could argue that it is not worth it but i would disagree. I don't know if any thomist dealed systematically with this yet. Not that there is nothing, for Dr. Feser himself had some helpful posts on a philosopher called Byrne and will write a book on sexual morality.

    3. I mean, the reason for the gap is because these ideas only became mainstream a few years ago, and the activists in question are not open to debating them at all, especially not with conservatives.

      If you want a take-down of these ideas, the best one I've come across on the Internet is by a friend named arrus_kachi, who wrote a two-part series called "Metamorphoses of Self."

    4. Yea, you are correct that the situation does not favor a systematic treatment of these ideas and how they are presented also does not help. That is unfortunate, but the whole thing is so bizarre(and dangerous) that it only a matter of time before it moves the right persons to writing.

      And thanks for the recommendation, it looks good.

  44. One branch of philosophy that I have found fascinating to read and learn about is the Philosophy of History. I've read about 20 books about it and though I probably won't go into this as a profession, I enjoy reading about it. (I was quite surprised that Karl Marx is considered one of the big names in this field. Obviously Hegel's name was to be expected, but I didn't realize that some of the other major modern philosophers, like Descartes and Kant, wrote on this as well).

    Now to my question: Are there any Thomists writing on this field? The only one that I know of is Jacques Maritain, in his book "On the Philosophy of History". I do know of at least another Catholic philosopher of history, Christopher Dawson, but I haven't read anything by him yet. (Let me just mention that I don't consider Chesterton's book "the Everlasting Man" as a book on this topic).

    If someone here is interested in learning more about this branch of philosophy here are 5 books I would recommend:

    1. "History and Historians" by Mark Gilderhus (make sure you get the most recent edition)
    2. "Shapes of Philosophical History" by Frank Manuel
    3. "The Idea of History" by R. G. Collingwood (His name also gets frequently mentioned in the literature, from what I can tell)
    4. "Kant and the Problem of History" by William Galston
    5. "The Riddle of History" by Bruce Mazlish

    I would also recommend reading the books in the order listed, because the first two will give you a good introduction into the topic, while the last 3 are more specific in their topics. Also, all of them, with the exception of the Kant book, go through their topics historically.

  45. Hal says:
    "It is strange that so many who deny the existence of God and immaterial souls believe that someone can be born into a wrong body. Or the claim that it is a female self that inhabits a male body."

    The depths to which profound ignorance can fall knows no bounds. One of the most fraudulent statements ever to be made.

    Is gender identity nature or nurture?
    "Research at the Johns Hopkins Children Center has shown that gender identity is almost entirely based on nature [not nurture] and is almost exclusively predetermined before the birth of the baby."

    Exposure of the fetus to hormonal variations in the mother such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, together with the genetic makeup of the forming fetus, play a significant role in fetal sex differentiation; such exposure also influences the sexual orientation and or gender identity that emerges later in the adult. This is a scientific given.

    Homo sapiens sapiens is just ONE species (not TWO different species), while expressed largely in two forms (male and female), they can also be born in every shade in between. One end of the gender continuum is male; the other is female. It is a single continuum and the fetus can fall anywhere on that continuum. But genetic happenstance of random variation and mutation means there is absolutely no guarantee you will be born only a male OR a female. That's why, physically, people can be born with either/or both genitalia (a male dick and a female vagina both at the same time for the uninitiated). I add this bit of information for the profound ignoranti on this site who haven't a clue about genetics).

    Just as it is a given that babies can be born with dual sex organs, they can also be born without a brain (ANENCEPHALY), Downs Syndrome, conjoined twins (two separate babies sharing one body that may or not be able to b separated), and a 1,000 other malformations.

    And just as the physical appearance of the child can be subject to the vagaries of genetic malfunction so too can their brains be affected by malfunction of the evolutionary process. As John Hopkins Children's Centre clearly and unambiguously notes above, gender dysphoria is as much a malfunction of a natural occurring and imperfect evolutionary process.

    I might add, your claim for the existence of God and immaterial souls, in this most unfortunate of contexts about gender dysphoria and sex indeterminacy, is just another nail in the coffin of religion as a viable world view and a profound indictment on how religious belief can be so existentially dangerous if left unchecked.

    I would be interested in Dr Feser's response to Hal's remarks. Because to me, he owns the statement. It's on his website and it is still there.

    To me and any decent, right-minded person, who cares about others, the standard of behaviour you walk by, be it written or acted, is the the standard you accept as normal. Inaction is not an excuse.

  46. Ed or fellow Thomists, can you help me out with this question: is Aristotle saved? I mean, he must be in heaven by now or not? How does it work in his case?

    I can't understand quite right the doctrine of purgatory. But I think that Aristotle was a great guy and also discovered that God really is. So he should be in heaven by now.

    If I Myself earn salvation by the Holy Grace of God, I would love to shake Aristotle's hand in heaven though.

    1. I don't know what a Thomist response to this would be; but I do know the general type of response that a Wesleyan would give. (I'm studying at a Wesleyan seminary, and I took a course on John Wesley's theology this past Fall semester. I asked the professor the same basic question you asked, and this was essentially his response).

      In John Wesley's theology, he argued for what he called "Prevenient Grace". It's the grace that God gives to everyone, whether they're saved or not. It suppresses the full effects of sin on people, not to the point of being saved, but enough to make it possible for a person to make a free choice to believe or reject God's offer of grace. It also gives people the ability to do the natural things of life (i.e. having a job, raising children, getting married, etc.). Along with this it allows people to understand the Moral Law (in a limited manner), and also to know something about God's existence and attributes. Lastly, it allows the possibility that everyone could be saved by the end of history. It doesn't mean that everyone will be saved, but it leaves it open as something that could happen.

      (That was all background info on the response).

      The professor's actual response was twofold:

      1st - No one (except for God) is in a position to judge whether someone is in a state of unbelief before death (because it is always possible that they could have repented right before dying). Only God has the ultimate right to judge whether someone is saved or not.

      2nd - For people who were never able to hear the Gospel (like Aristotle) we have to remember the character of the God that will judge them. God is (among other things) holy, all-just, all-loving, and all-knowing. This means that whatever judgment that God gives to people like Aristotle, His judgement will be perfectly fair and just. This also means that at the end of history, after Judgment Day, no one will be able to say that God was biased in His judgment of them.

      This means that we leave this in the hands of God, knowing that God made (or will make?) a perfectly fair judgement of Aristotle.

    2. See also Romans 1:20, where St. Paul says," For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have clearly been seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

    3. Thank you guys for the kind responses. I really appreciate it!

      The focus in Aristotle's case specifically is due to the fact that I really like the guy. I can't even think how can I express how much he means to me because of his metaphysics. So, I hope he's very well with God.

      May God bless you guys, thanks again for the replies.

  47. Good 🌄 Dr. Feser
    On laying out the 5 proofs of Thomas to a group of confirmation 1 kids and on coming upon the argument from the degrees of perfection one of the volunteer catechist said to me that I was wrong because God makes all people perfect. She took the argument as an attack on her because of her daughter having down syndrome. My response was more of a pastoral approach, so please correct me if I was wrong in my response. I said "well first we need to take into account the nature of the thing in question. The nature of an apple, this fruit is a physical thing. Yet now when it come to the nature of the human beings we are talking about a physical and spiritual reality and the physical perfection of a person is just one aspect of the person". I continued, "Thomas Aquinas says that the soul is the form of the body and if anyone has met your daughter they know how kind and gentle she is, how every time she sees some one she runs to them hugging them with her childlike simplicity.The scriptures communicates that in order for a person to be perfect they must 'be holy as my Father is holy' and else where Jesus says 'you will not enter the kingdom if you do not become like a child'. " I finished by saying " Because God is simple being that he is non composite your daughter is more perfect then we are because of her child like simplicity". Was this the correct approach and if not what should I have said Dr. Feser.

    1. I like how you approached it Wayne. I don't think there is any one best way to respond though. But your approach is a good one!

      What I often highlight with my kids is that each and every one of them has different talents. Some of them are better at some things than others, and some of them are worse. I have seven kids. My eldest is doing really great at academics. My third is extremely social.They all have a nature given to them from birth with various powers and abilities. To simplify, some of them were given 1000 talents, some 100, some 10, and some only 1. God expects them to make use of the talents they were given. To put them in the bank of life, so to speak, so they can return interest on God's investment. So, although each of them has the nature and the abilities at the level that God wanted them to have when he created them, they are all different in degrees and the areas where their strengths lie. By his divine and providential will, God has built in a certain amount of inequality.

      But - and this is the important leveler - God will not judge us on our skills and abilities. He will judge us on our love. Just see 1 Corinthians 13. Read the whole thing. And then ask yourself, who is more loving than a child with Down Syndrome? Who shows more affection by nature than one such as these? Who is more humble? Who is more gentle? Who is more childlike? Of course, this is just my impression of them from what I have heard from others. They will also be judged based on the talents they were given and how they use their talents. But from my perspective, they may be the closest to perfection in this fallen world than can be found.

      Another really wonderful person that talks about this is Saint Therese of Lisieux in her Story of a Soul. The first chapter is just a wonderful meditation on this diversity of talents that God has unequally spread throughout the world. But how God has given every one of us the ability to be great in Love.

  48. "Research at the Johns Hopkins Children Center has shown that gender identity is almost entirely based on nature [not nurture] and is almost exclusively predetermined before the birth of the baby."

    Well - that is certainly not the truth.

    "During this “transgender moment”, a government-enforced tyranny of false presumptions about nature besieges the American family. When Harry Became Sally provides the empirical information needed to refute the transgender suppositions, and – in a most original way – makes historic sense of this social misdirection by noting how the “gender-fluid” pseudoscientific claims of today’s transgender ideologues derive from dubious argument previously passed around amongst second-wave feminists. Learn from Ryan Anderson how another craze about the workings of the mind has come to beset American households and put thousands of people at risk.

    Paul McHugh
    University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, John Hopkins University School of Medicine"

    Johns Hopkins, since McHugh’s days, has become overwhelmed by transactivists who have bullied and threatened their way to prominence there, as they have done in so many other places. It is disturbing to see how they have behaved in the U.S. and in Canada. Their actions have not been based on any scientific discussion, but have been purely based on social activism, character assassination, political, and legal action. Only in this way have they taken over institutions that had previously been dedicated to good science.

    And so we have at least a decade's worth of people, and children in particular, who are having their lives destroyed by such as these. It is horrifying to watch, and this needs to be stopped. To me and anyone who supports such as these are deluded at best and callously wicked at worse. We need to confront them head on.

  49. @Papalinton
    "And just as the physical appearance of the child can be subject to the vagaries of genetic malfunction so too can their brains be affected by malfunction of the evolutionary process. As John Hopkins Children's Centre clearly and unambiguously notes above, gender dysphoria is as much a malfunction of a natural occurring and imperfect evolutionary process."

    Now you make sense: malfunction of the brain. I fully agree. In short, a male who thinks he is actually female (or vice versa) is simply crazy. No less than a man who thinks he is actually a horse, or a rabbit, or a refrigerator. Transgender people aren't: they are just insane.
    Doctors who encourage their delusions and prescribe them hormones or perform genital mutilations are in blatant violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

  50. Contrary to what must be Linton's misreading of the sense of the text, and his undoubted subsequent attempt to indict Feser with Soviet style "legal reasoning", Hal's naturalist nod in response to Grodrigues' amused observation, is perfectly apt, and conceptually correct.

    The ridiculousness of a mental model which implicitly envisions baby souls, gendered or otherwise dropping into skin suits randomly handed out by nature like some negligent depot corporal flinging I'll fitting fatigues at raw recruits, is ridiculous.

    But that is the very model, conscious or unconscious, which some proclaimed materialists rely on in order to set up the framework of their "justice" arguments.

    Hal is merely acknowledging the absurdity of such a cartoonish notion of "the person" be it from a theistic or a consistent naturalist's position.

    Theist or non-theist, the idea of someone being born into the "wrong" body is absurd. From the naturalist's viewpoint such an assertion relies on a premiss (implicit or otherwise) which is unsound and insupportable.

    On the naturalust's assumption there is no soul or person to worry about, no ghost in the machine: whether you call it Psyche or Soul or Person, any other name. On that view, if one is honest and logically consistent, there is no teleology; and the organism is not the victim, cannot be the victim, of a cosmically objective defect. But it instead, IS the so-called defect. Does its way of manifesting in the world put the flesh-thing at a survival and associative disadvantage? Sure. But what has that got to do with anything about the right or wrong carapaces or wiring?

    On the other hand, no Thomist or serious theist that I know of, subscribes to a theory that involves sexed baby souls raining randomly into awaiting skin suits fashioned by some hidden creator. Which silly vision, is precisely the vision and only the vision which would give such a deluded person an imagined "right" to call "fair" or "foul", in the first place.

    Papalinton is not only wrong in his criticism.of Hal, he is as a critic famously said regarding the human moral atrocity which was anthropologist Margaret Mead, Not Even Wrong.

    As far as Papalinton's real beef (confused as it may be), which is with the social constructionists, that is another matter; and one which he should take up with them.

  51. Have you ever eaten pie? If so, what were your thoughts on the delicious pie you ate? Use one example only.

    1. The pie didn't have enough blueberries in it.

  52. @ Daniel and Franz

    "Johns Hopkins to resume gender-affirming surgeries after nearly 40 years. The prestigious school is finally distancing itself from its anti-trans reputation." READ IT HERE

    The report notes:
    "Earlier this month, the heads of Johns Hopkins Medicine issued a letter to their colleagues addressing increasing scrutiny on the institution. One of its faculty members, Paul McHugh, has become the face of anti-transgender advocacy, propping up junk science to justify rejecting transgender identities."

    In the letter to colleagues, ".. it addresses the controversy of the professors’ scholarship, defending their academic freedom, but sternly noting, “When individuals associated with Johns Hopkins exercise the right of expression, they do not speak on behalf of the institution.”"

    The American Bar Association notes:
    "After nearly 40 years, Johns Hopkins Hospital has officially reversed its policy on transgender health and "is moving forward to take care of transgender people in a supportive, affirming way that's grounded in evidence-based medicine."

    Prof McHugh's anti-transgender ideology has all the hallmarks of the earlier religion-based radical "conversion therapies" that were perpetrated against the LGBT community some decades ago. The anti-transgender-driven ideology of today is being seriously and robustly challenged and shown to be little more than junk science at best.

    As we all know, science is substitutive or eliminative: new ideas replace old ideas; religion is additive and/or schismatic: new ideas proliferate alongside old ideas; Christianity did not replace Judaism, nor did Protestantism replace Catholicism.
    With science we get better, with religion we just get more.

  53. Glad to be where I have an actual keyboard, and a screen I can see, in order to reply to this comment left by Michael at 3:32 PM, who wrote,

    " One branch of philosophy that I have found fascinating to read and learn about is the Philosophy of History. I've read about 20 books about it and though I probably won't go into this as a profession, I enjoy reading about it. (I was quite surprised that Karl Marx is considered one of the big names in this field. Obviously Hegel's name was to be expected, but I didn't realize that some of the other major modern philosophers, like Descartes and Kant, wrote on this as well)."

    Before qualifying for a major in an historical field years ago, satisfactory completion of a number of requisite courses was stipulated. One of the more obvious, was in historiography, and the theory and practice of history as a profession.

    Any kid with a lively mind and some acquaintance with historical subjects soon comes to realize that by "history" several different things are being spoken about. There is the simple unanalyzed and partly recollected past, conceived of as "history".

    There are the bodies of delivered research into past events, that are quite literally "history" in its etymological sense. That "history", is what the researcher delivers; and the subject of his reported research thus becomes historical matter.

    And then there is that notion of a process through time compounded of a couple of different concepts having to do with Judaeo-Christian ideas concerning the origins and ends of man, of linear time, and the idea of "progress" - purportedly invented by Vico.

    Unless one intends to become an historian per se, "the philosophy of history" will be more of Collingwood and "The Idea of History" which one will be thinking of than doctrines of "The Theory and Practice of History", or "The Historian as Detective".

    That, is obviously your interest.

    Yet as fascinating as is the subject of big history, i.e., what "history" is or means as interpreted by and conceived of by the big names [as opposed to the mere techniques of uncovering, analyzing, and recording past events in some narrowly meaningful or instrumentally insightful manner] it becomes pretty obvious that the kind of "History" you are referring to, and which so fascinated me decades ago in college, is actually, in some non-trivial sense, a branch of metaphysics ... or at least ontology.

    And your mention of Karl Marx and the influence of historicism is to my mind pretty much a demonstration of that.

    Recall that Marx thought he was avoiding metaphysical presuppositions and deductive inferences based on origin stories, by entering "history" from the side, so to speak; as the real record and deposit of present men as they lived and produced their lives in a reflexive relationship with other men, and with the "inorganic body" through time.

    But this is itself, if it claims to be "true", a set of dogmatic initial operating and filtering principles, and not just a working assumption as one blogger linked to in another comment tried to claim regarding his own practices.

    There is an interesting transformation which takes place in the space between merely asserting that any full secular understanding of human social phenomena must include an understanding of them in a context of temporal transformation and development, and the emergent view that there is a kind of historical process that is generated by and then hovers over mankind like a supervenient emanation and which somehow gains an independent existence of its own. Even when that implication is inadvertent or denied.

    Anyway, after all that, I am not sure what a specifically Thomist philosophy of history would look like in ways which might differentiate it significantly from the larger Catholic and Christian view of the world, of its elements, its past, its direction, and its ultimate fate.

  54. What books do you re-read every year? Or at least every other year?

    Here are the books I try to read every year.


    1. "The Lord of the Rings" by JRR Tolkien
    2. "The Pendragon Cycle" by Stephen Lawhead (I read this every other year).
    3. "Till We Have Faces" by CS Lewis


    1. "The Apology" by Plato (I try to cycle through all of his other dialogs every 2 years).
    2. "On the Shortness of Life" by Seneca
    3. "On the Contempt of Death" by Cicero
    4. "The Consolation of Philosophy" by Boethius
    5. "Treatise on Happiness" by Thomas Aquinas
    6. "Orthodoxy", and "Saint Thomas Aquinas" by GK Chesterton
    7. "Miracles: A Preliminary Study" by CS Lewis
    8. "The Restoration of Reason: The Eclipse and Recovery of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty" by Montague Brown


    1. Robert Frost: "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening", and "The Road Not Taken"
    2. Gerard Manly Hopkins: "The Windhover", "God's Grandeur", and "Pied Beauty"
    3. John Donne: "Batter My Heart Three-Person'd God"
    4. William Shakespear: "To Be or Not To Be", and "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow"
    5. Lord Alfred Tennyson: "The Charge of the Light Brigade"
    6. John Keats: "When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be", and "Ode on Melancholy"
    7. William Wordsworth: "The World is To Much with Us", and "Character of the Happy Warrior

    1. There are no books I read every year, but there are a few I return to regularly:

      1. Absalom, Absalom!
      2. The Sound and the Fury
      3. Catch-22
      4. Slaughterhouse Five
      5. Lord of the Rings
      6. Gulliver's Travels

      1. Our host's The Last Superstition
      2. Francis Beckwith's Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air
      3. Willard Gaylin's The Perversion of Autonomy
      4. John C. Calhoun's Disquisition on Government
      5. Aquinas's Treatise on Law

      1. Anything by W.B. Yeats
      2. T.S. Eliot's Wasteland
      3. e.e. cummings' "A salesman is an it that stinks, excuse"
      4. Emily Dickinson's "After great pain a formal feeling comes
      5. Shakespeare's Sonnets

  55. @Papalinton
    Nice argument from authority. I don't care if Johns Hopkins University says that 2+2=5. 2+2 is still equal to 4.

  56. DNW @ 8.37AM
    You say:
    "Contrary to what must be Linton's misreading of the sense of the text, and his undoubted subsequent attempt to indict Feser with Soviet style "legal reasoning", Hal's naturalist nod in response to Grodrigues' amused observation, is perfectly apt, and conceptually correct."

    If holding others to account both morally and ethically, is 'Soviet style "legal reasoning"', according to your wisdom(?), whom am I to quibble with your reasoning?

    Let others be the judge of your position. I entirely reject your assertion, as strongly as any half-decent, fair-minded person who abides and lives by sound moral principles would. I repeat with strong affirmation that the standard of behaviour you walk by is the standard you accept. Inaction is not an excuse. And unless and until Dr Feser makes his position known on this matter with Hal's dreadful claim, I am in good conscience justified to challenge his moral and ethical standard. Hal is entitled to his claim, be it horrible or otherwise. Free speech is free but it is not without consequences. The appropriate consequence of such ugly speech is condemnation and repudiation from any decent and principled person.

  57. Franz,
    I know there is a certain appeal in belligerence and obstinacy, but the truth is the truth. You are on the wrong side of history on this one.

  58. @Papalinton
    Exactly, the truth is the truth.
    On this matter, the truth can be found out by looking at the sex chromosomes. Look at the sex chromosomes of Ellen page (who now goes by the name Elliot): I assure you the result will be XX, female. Look at chromosomes of Rachel Levin: I assure you the result will be XY, male. This is the objective truth.
    The fact that they really believe they are actually male and female respectively, and that they badly disguised themselves as such throgh surgery, meds and clothing, has nothing to do with truth. If I claim I a horse, and I really believe it, and I walk around with a horse mask on my face, this does not make me a horse. I am still a man. It literally is exactly the same thing.
    But I know leftists do not care about facts. That's why discussing with them is so pointless. So, belive what you want, I guess.

  59. So proponents of transgenderism often espouse metaphysical ideas in an unsystematic and unconscious way, and I think it is good to look at the framework from which they are operating.

    There is a transgender ontology which states that people are what they claim to be and ought to be defined by their claims about themselves rather than any manifested physical characteristic. Thus, a transgender boy is not merely a girl who identifies as a boy, he is a boy full stop. His (her) feelings are all that matter in the determination.

    The proponent of transgenderism will try to deny that this is a metaphysical claim by dressing up their jargon in the language of physical science, but it does not take much work to remove that veneer to get at what is at root a metaphysical claim. For example, Linton claims that Johns Hopkins had definitively declared that they have solved the debate about whether gender identity is caused by nature or nurture.

    “Exposure of the fetus to hormonal variations in the mother such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, together with the genetic makeup of the forming fetus, play a significant role in fetal sex differentiation; such exposure also influences the sexual orientation and or gender identity that emerges later in the adult. This is a scientific given.”

    Clearly the first statement is true. Hormones and genetic makeup cause sex differentiation. Johns Hopkins is not breaking any new ground here. But this is followed by the other claim that this exposure also influences sexual orientation along with an oddly worded and/or statement, gender identity that emerges later in adult.

    Linton wants us to take away from this that the issue of transgenderism has been solved. Hormones and genetics have a “significant” role to play! Wow! That is just amazing! But then what follows is an unwarranted metaphysical claim that gender identity is a spectrum between male and female and everything in between. As though this claim followed on the obvious scientific facts just sited. That is simply false. No evidence was given for this claim. At all. Because the actual metaphysical claim is that a persons feelings are all that matter when determining gender. If the body does not align with ones feeling of gender identity, then it is not the feelings that have to be addressed, it is the body that needs to be changed and addressed. And in the case of people with gender dysphoria, it is their body that needs to be chemically and physically mutilated to a gross parody of what they feel their biological sex ought to be.

    But why should one’s feelings be the governing principle when it leads to such gruesome biochemical and physical reconstruction? Especially when every other physical sexual marker shows that the reality is the exact opposite? What kind of natural science would allow one to make “feelings” the governing factor when making such a radical decision? And the answer is, there is no such natural science or empirical data that can allow one to make such a radical decision. This primacy of feeling ignores a mountain of evidence from chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, eternal genitalia, and secondary sex characteristics that ought to be the determining factor when discussing gender identity for the purposes of classifying someone as male or female.

    It is this primacy of the intellect and the feelings that has caused this misdiagnosis. And this primacy comes not from science but from gender studies departments which have an existential and post modern philosophical underpinning. One need only to look at Sartre and Simon the Beauvoir and others to see where these ideas come from. They are not scientific! They are philosophical and metaphysical! As so, we have to strip away the scientific veneer that surrounds this debate and get back to the philosophical and metaphysical basis on which it all stands or falls.

  60. I entirely reject your assertion, as strongly as any half-decent, fair-minded person who abides and lives by sound moral principles would.

    The arrogance of an atheist claiming moral high ground is hilarious.

  61. Yes, the truth is the truth. A man is a man and a woman is a woman. A man who says he is a woman is deluded. No amount of sophistry can change that.

    "The wrong side of history" is a rhetorical device and it only means: "Since my opinion is popular, I am right". But truth is truth and popular opinions have changed through the history back and forth.

    Expelling the Jews from your country was "being on the right side of the history" during the 16th century.

  62. Exposure of the fetus to hormonal variations in the mother such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, together with the genetic makeup of the forming fetus, play a significant role in fetal sex differentiation

    Indeedy. This is all very fascinating. Sex is due to hormonal variations and genetic makeup....and it's also a social construct that is 'assigned at birth'. Thankfully, we have 'sex reassignment surgery' to correct the original mistake! Gender identity is 'predetermined before birth', yet it can also be fluid. Astounding!