Monday, May 9, 2022

End of semester open thread

Let’s start the summer break off right, with an open thread.  Now’s the time to get that otherwise off-topic obsession of yours off your chest, at long last.  From plunging stocks to Pet Rocks, from buying Twitter to Gary Glitter to sharing an Uber with Martin Buber, everything is on topic.  The usual rules of good taste and discretion apply.  Previous open threads archived here.

210 comments:

  1. What is your stance eon the first eleven chapters of Genesis, and especially the whole Noah story? Do you takee biblical stories such as "The ground beneath their feet split open and they fell into Sheol alvie and then the ground close dup over them" literally?

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    1. The standard Catholic position, which I imagine Ed shares, is given by Pius XII: ‘The first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people.’ (Humani Generis (1950) 38, DS 3898)

      So the Church takes a middle path: between insisting on literal interpretation of every detail, versus the other extreme, denying that the things told are historical at all. Catholic teaching is that Scripture (understood according to the author’s true intention) is free from all error. Pius XII teaches that what the author intended to communicate in Genesis 1-11 does ‘pertain to history in a true sense’, even though the genre differs from modern historical works.

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    2. "Catholic teaching is that Scripture (understood according to the author’s true intention) is free from all error."

      Not when understood according to the (human) author’s true intention, but when understood according to the (divine) Author's true intention.

      Take Psalm 137:9, which I quote with the previous verse for context:

      "O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, How blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us.

      How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock."

      Here "the human author's true intention" is unmistakable: he is proclaiming blessed the man who kills Babylonian babies. No metaphor or allegory in "the human author's true intention".

      This is why this verse is so troubling in modern Jewish exegesis, as shown by the fact that the main site of Jewish Biblical scholarship devoted a whole symposium to discussing this verse:

      https://www.thetorah.com/symposium/psalm-137-9

      In contrast, for us Christians this verse poses no problem at all, because for us Scripture is inerrant only in the sense intended by God, and this sense can be known only in Christ. Then, the sense of this verse in Christ is clearly allegorical: the "babies of Babylon" are the thoughts of sinning in their formative stage, and the rock against which the righteous man must crash those thoughts is Christ.

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    3. Addressing now the Noah story, you may already know that it is the paradigmatic example of the documentary hypothesis, as it clearly shows two interwoven narratives [1]. I point this out just to show that there are at least two human authors.

      Regarding the intention of those human authors, I will just quote a scholarly article [2] out of convenience, certainly not as argument of authority:

      "The biblical sources, J and P, reworked the Mesopotamian tradition in various ways, but both attempted to make it fit with the Israelite worldview. Amongst other things, in the Bible, the story has been “monotheized,” as only one God both brings the flood and delivers the flood hero and the others on the ark. The story has also been ethicized, insofar as the flood is now a punishment for human sin, not a counter to human overpopulation and noise, as in Atrahasis".

      The paralellism and contrast between both stories are also well described in the first response to a Quora question [3].

      Summarizing, there were some local floods in Mesopotamian cities between 3100 and 2500 BC, one of which, probably the one c. 2750 BC, gave the occasion for the composition of the Atrahasis epic. Over time that epic became well known in the Middle Eastern cultural context (and was partially reworked into the Gilgamesh Epic), so that two biblical authors thought they needed to give Israelites a counter-narrative which was compatible with their faith.

      [1] https://www.thetorah.com/article/a-textual-study-of-noahs-flood

      [2] https://www.thetorah.com/article/the-mesopotamian-origin-of-the-biblical-flood-story

      [3] https://www.quora.com/What-are-differences-between-Noah-s-stories-and-Atrahasis-Epic

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    4. I forgot to include the reference for the Mesopotamian local floods that could have provided the background for the Atrahasis epic:

      [4] https://www.livius.org/articles/misc/great-flood/flood5/

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    5. I should clarify that I am asking for Edward's position SPECIFICALLY, not for that of other's here. Also, saying the flood story i s "tailored to the people the time" as Pius said implies that God was misleading Noah when he said to bring "EVERY" creature, not just local ones, and context strongly points to a global flood, as in a local flood the water would start going down towards the sea as soon as the rain and "wellsprings of the deep" stopped, instead of waiting 150 days to start abating.

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    6. OK, I answered because I understood the "you" as plural.

      Anyway, it is not possible to draw valid conclusions about the narrative - such as "God was misleading Noah" - if the narrative's context (global flood in an Ancient Near East cosmology) is replaced with that of the historical underlying event (local flood in the real earth).

      The ANE cosmology is clear in Gen 7:11: "on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened."

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    7. One small quibble. The "at least two authors" isn't necessarily the case. There is no reason a single author might not have rewritten the same basic material, as Waugh did with "The Man Who Liked Dickens".

      George LeSauvage

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    8. I think everything in Genesis is real and I don't think Genesis was cribbed from other sources but, rather, other sources were published based upon poorly remembered events.

      Often it is claimed that The Catholic Church copied the rite of Mithra but St Justin the Martyr observed that it was Mithra that copied The Catholic Church via the demonic -delivered imitation of Catholic Mysteries.

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  2. Hard Science Fiction rulez!!!!!!

    Just saying......

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    1. What's your favorite hard sci-fi?

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    2. REVELATION SPACE series by Alastair Reynolds. The Expanse TV show. 2001 Space Odyssey. Anything without FTL interstellar travel and no paragravity and no humanoid Aliens.

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    3. John C. Wright (Golden Age trilogy, Count to the Eschaton sequence) combine unusually high technology with fairly hard sf. No FTL or humanoid aliens in either one.

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    4. I agree with the sentiment of "hard SF rules". But I can't stand 2001 Space Odyssey. It's not because AC Clarke was anti-Catholic (and anti-western religion in general), I get along just fine with lots of SF writers in that block. Just rubs me all wrong. Loved his Tales from the White Hart.

      John Wright's Golden Age is great. Though you gotta admit: even if he doesn't have humanoid aliens, he DOES have UNhumanoid humans. But he is an Aristotelian (or at least classically trained), so all is forgiven.

      I like the early Heinlein best, but not some of his later stuff from his weird days. L Ron Hubbard was a nut-case, but I liked his Battlefield Earth as a good rip-roaring tale.

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    5. Oh I forgot about Wright. I should add them to the list.

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    6. You Hard SF fans are criminally sleeping on Greg Egan.
      A story where the solar system is suddenly encased in a dark sphere while scientists discover ways to prevent the brain from collapsing the wave function. (This is Quarantine).
      Another where Searle's argument (that anything can be interpreted as 'running a program' if you look close enough) inspired a life-insurance dealer for virtual humans to create the perfect artificial universe that would run "on the dust", that is, would interpret itself into existence (this is Permutation City).
      Minus the five pages of gross porn here and there and you have any sci-fi needs taken care of.
      Unless, you want something more poetic, then I recommend Gene Wolfe. He works with a concept of "Deep Future", that is, a civilization so many billion years into the future that every other possible sci-fi futuristic scenario has gone by and only ruins, records, derelict spaceships and novel torture devices remain (though, to the characters, these devices are ancient history). "Book of the New Sun" is hard to get into but fascinating if you do.

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    7. I did read his Foundation Novel. I liked the way he retconned the Galactic Empire using Wormhole Gates for FTL. Stargates are the only FTL I want to see in my Hard Sci Fi. Ya make a wormhole and you drag it STL to another star. It takes decades and centuries to make yer interstellar civilization. No true FTL! Hard Scifi is like dreaming aboot romancing the girl next door instead of the pretty actress or super model. You be thinking to yerself "Hey this could really happen!".

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    8. I've looked up Asimov's Foundation universe and not found anything by Greg Egan. Were you thinking of the novel Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear?

      Does anyone recommend the novels that The Expanse is based on? By James S. A. Corey?

      Any expectations about the upcoming movie adaptation of Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama?

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  3. Dr. Feser, I was wandering if you are familiar with recent efforts by some people like Slavoj Zizek and Adrian Johnston to formulate a non-reductive materialism by essentially reviving a materialist type of Hegelianism. Johnston’s work is particularly interesting as he seems to be comfortable describing his work as embracing Aristotle’s hylemorphism but from a materialist bent (Johnston appeals to Darwinian biology to avoid teleology). Even if you haven’t read their works, what do you make of this general effort to create an Aristotelian-based materialism?

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    1. I second the request, though I suspect any sort of Hegelianism has been adequately dealt with by people like Eric Voegelin.

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    2. @Aizen

      What objections do Eric have against Hegel metaphysics? I only read some political texts of the guy, so i admit that i can't see Voegelin tackling metaphysics directly.

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  4. Ed,
    What are your thoughts on the moral imperative to restore Christendom? The West must re-acknowledge the social kingship of Christ.

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  5. okkkaaayyy.... The Church is reputed to be the "pillar and ground of truth". Yet it seems that the guidance it gives is often murky at best and a member has to have at least a Gregory Pine-level of intellect and breadth of reading to discern what is what. Yes, the stuff about loving God and neighbor is pretty clear, but Jesus himself said it. We didn't need a church for that. How can someone consider joining this crew when its current leader seems to give a free pass to those practicing things contradictory to church teaching (e.g. the germans, pachamama, etc.) while bringing down the hammer on those who are striving to offer heartfelt devotion to God (the Latin mass crew). ?
    No wonder the Patrick Coffins of the world are looking for an explainer; too bad they can't come up with a better theory.
    Is the Catholic God aware of what his acolytes are doing? And if so, does he not care? Saying it's been worse before is not an argument to instill confidence. Instead it confirms either capriciousness or negligence at the heavenly level of management for this org.
    Not trying to be snarky here! I'd truly like to hear a plausible explanation. I can't imagine a worthy one other than "We don't know why God allows this".

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    1. Statements by the Church can be at various levels of authority. At the highest, infallible level it's completely reliable. At the next couple, it's still extremely reliable. But the low-level, day-to-day stuff can be all over the place.

      In an ideal world, all of our Popes would be saints and Doctors of the Church... In practice, God writes straight with crooked lines. Just as the kings of Judah were legitimately anointed kings even when they were evil, pagan jerks, so too we can have legitimately elected Popes who aren't good at their job.

      Don't join the Catholic Church because of its great earthly leadership, even when it IS great. Join it because it's the Church founded by Christ!

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    2. Sincerely, i Thank you for your sincere reply, Mr. Shadow.
      There is no question that the church has had some fabulous members, and this is one of its key attractants.
      Nonetheless, any mortal father in this life who allows some of his children to abuse others in the family would be termed neglectful or abdicating of his authority.
      A child's normal reaction would be to run away from such a situation, never mind consider joining it.

      There is no doubt that there is sin in the world. But the church is supposed to be a vehicle for deliverance from it, not be part of the problem!

      Imagine going to a local accountancy for help with your book keeping. The senior partner of the firm is absent. His son is in charge and a known scalawag; the senior left a note saying to trust junior. But it matters not that in other times the firm did respectable work. My finances need fixing NOW and i shouldn't have to second guess or audit the work is a professional i would hire for the purpose. Kinda sux that the other firms in town are terrible too. Seems like i might as well fend for myself

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    3. The divine nature of the Church is most obscured when looking at the daily confusions and quarrels of its members, because almost all of its members, such as myself, are sinners still only partially committed to following the Lord.

      The clearest witnesses to the divinity of the Church are the blood of the martyrs, the lives of the saints and the Word of God made manifest in Scipture and in the Eucharist.

      I assume you are asking the Lord to lead you to truth in sincerity, instead of merely looking for the number of ways to accuse the Church in her sinfulness. But if you read the Acts of the apostles, even disciples who personally witnessed the resurrection were squabbling frequently, in between being vessels of miracles and grace and truth.

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    4. "Yes, the stuff about loving God and neighbor is pretty clear"

      Is it? I actually don't think it is. I've been around for decades and my understanding of what this means has matured and changed dramatically over time. I actually don't think it is pretty clear, and I don't think many/most people know what that means even if they think they do. It's enough to look at the way people understand "love" and "compassion" in everyday discourse. The common misunderstanding is dangerous.

      (Incidentally, I don't like how the language in the Church has lost precision. E.g. faith, hope, charity vs. faith, hope, love. The former is much clearer. I "love" my enemy in that I am charitable toward him, that is, I will his ultimate good. I do not desire my enemy in the capacity of an enemy! I have no warm feelings for him as enemy. Perverse!)

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    5. >>Is it? I actually don't think it is. I've been around for decades and my understanding of what this means has matured and changed dramatically over time.<<

      I agree, especially since we live in an age of a secular ideology that distorts and perverts Christian language. In Christianity, love means "to will the good of another". In the ruling ideology we hear "love is love", which is the radical acceptance and celebration of perverted sex acts and sodomy. In Christianity "Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority." In the ruling ideology " social justice" means 'diversity, inclusion and equity'. In Christianity, human dignity is "rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God" and it is "fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude." When the ruling elite use "human dignity", they mean unfettered individual autonomy; self idolatry.

      We live in an age of confusion, so I agree with you that most people, unfortunately, do not understand what love, social justice, human dignity or the Good, True or Beautiful is.

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    6. Anonymous at 6.55PM

      Here is what I would suggest is a plausible explanation for your observations - the RCC is a purely human institution that is deluded about its status and nature, behaving as a human social institution of its size and hubris would. Human, all too human. Think the obvious.

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    7. Being honest, sometimes i wonder if the problem with the church hierarchy being terrible confusing is as big on a day to day basis as it is made out to be. Here on my parish i don't know anyone who is big on theology or anything like that but people seem to know how to live the christian life and grow in virtue and our pope seems generally beloved. The Pachamama Affair, the divorced people controversy etc, i never heard anyone talking about that, Francis is the guy that wants to make the Church more dinamic and welcoming and the organized laity(do you guys have a name for "pastorais"?) seems to try do apply this on a orthodox way.

      For instance, sometime ago we had a confirmation group finally receiving the sacrament and what we can say is that it truly seems that it was a very good period to they, where several learned the value of that and of the glorious journey that Our Lord offers. Of course, even a few days before the sacrament i heard some... bad things that show that there is more than wheat there and the same for the parish generally, but overall things are cool. Mostly thanks to our priest, who is quite good, even if his comments on Vatican II tend to be too positive to a trad.

      Not trying to diminish the importance of a good leadership, it annoys me as well that our bishops mostly seems to suck at their jobs. But how much these things affect the average person? I suppose that on a local level it is the local leadership that is a problem or not, but perhaps you guys have diferent realities.

      @FreeThinker

      Our boy Feser was a atheist for years and i, while fortunately never got that disease, i'am a convert myself. We considered your explanation before and can say: naaa.

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  6. The overturning of RvW appears to be imminent. I never thought I would see the day. What would be an Aristotelian justification for the banning of abortion?

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    1. First, I may be wrong, but I don't believe that overturning Roe v Wade would ban abortion. I believe it would just toss it back to the states to legislate. Second, the justification for banning abortion is the same as the justification for banning any homicide.

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    2. You’re exactly right. But many states can and easily may put a full ban on abortion. States like CA will keep it as is while other states such as Florida or Alabama will take a stronger stance on life.

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    3. If the overturn of Roe goes through, we will get a hodge-podge of state rules: some full-bore for all abortions (perhaps even (if you could imagine it) even MORE liberal than the current rule), a small handful trying to lock down ALL abortions as illegal (with, potentially, running into state constitutional issues, particularly with abortions for the life of the mother), and a sizeable majority who allow some abortions and outlaw other abortions, with varying stringency.

      If by "Aristotelian" you mean "the classical natural law" basis, it is straightforward, but not "easy": it is wrong to intentionally take the life of an innocent person. The fetus is an innocent person. Proving that the fetus IS a person takes modern medical knowledge (which Ari did not have, but we do): the fertilized egg (1) has a full complement of a human genome; (2) its genome is neither that of the mother nor that of the father; and (3) its life activities demonstrate that it has the integrity and teleology of a distinct human being, one who will be (visibly) a distinct human being later, because of its natural self-directed activity of growth NOW, making it a distinct human being now.

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  7. I have an acquaintance very much in the grip of Benevacantism. I wish I knew what to say to her.

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    1. Have her read and believe Benedict's own words:
      '"with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is."
      Then ask: 'will be vacant'- was he lying ?

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    2. How did all this start? Was it Patrick Coffin that really got this thing moving?

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  8. For my money, the most pressing public issue of the day is why so many of us allow ourselves to be herded into buying overpriced 3 year old boutique Bourbons and Rye, when truly great - or at least estimable - stuff can be had from traditional distilleries for under 35 bucks a pop. Much less if you are looking for it to be used with a mix.

    I think that this matter stands right up there in importance with the Question of Universals, and whether the 6.5 Creedmoor really will turn out to be the best deer rifle cartridge ever.

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    1. I don't generally drink bourbon or rye. I'm an Irish whiskey man. Middleton's Very Rare is my favorite. It is insanely expensive, but it's worth every penny.

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    2. "I'm an Irish whiskey man. Middleton's Very Rare is my favorite ..."

      I'll have to look that up online. Only a couple of standard Irish whiskey names come to my mind ( I know there are numerous others) , and whatever distinctive characteristics they offered to be appreciated, I somehow missed. But then, the couple bottles of Bushmills or Jameson's I pulled off the Drug Store shelves were purchased as experimental forays, with no clear idea in mind as to what to expect. I have the vague recollection that they seemed "lighter" than I expected. In their favor was a complete lack of the Islay Scotch taste of leaf mold and iodine, so beloved of the knowing knowers. Call me philistine, but if I'm going to have Scotch, just give me a Highland or Speyside brand, preferably one aged in Sherry casks. After all, we cannot all be expected to have developed palates.

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    3. I'm an Irish whiskey man. Middleton's Very Rare is my favorite. It is insanely expensive, but it's worth every penny.

      By insanely expensive, I thought you were talking about something comparable to a $500.00 bottle of Scotch.

      But when you said "insanely" apparently you meant it.


      "Midleton Very Rare:

      What a $45,000 Irish whiskey tastes like
      Maureen O'Hare, CNN • Updated 30th April 2021
      Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection Chapter Two "

      My goodness. I don't think you could even taste a cent's worth.

      I don't know whether they are bottled in liters, quarts or fifths, but assuming you generously get a full liter for your $45K, a dram would set you back $166.00 or so.
      Could you even taste an eighth of an ounce?

      Ed has a better heeled readership than I ever imagined.

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  9. Dr. Feser, if a deductive argument for God's existence has 20 premises, and each premise is 90% certain, then the conjunction of those premises only leaves us with 90%^20 certainty (12%). What do you think of this objection to your proofs for God's existence?




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    1. None of th arguments Feser and other classical theists give work based on probabilities. They are metaphysical demonstrations. The premises are either true or not. The conclusions either follow or they don't. It's like asking whether a certain proof of the Pythagorean Theorem has 80% percent chance of being correct. It either is or isn't.

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    2. In the standard deductive arguments, the claim would be that each step is in itself 100% certain, upon careful examination. An individual reasoner might have less than 100% confidence in his or her reasoning powers - but this says nothing about the power of the argument in itself. This might indeed limit the practical value of the argument as a widespread tool for completely
      convincing the average person of God’s existence, but that says nothing about the argument’s intrinsic logical force, or its power and value for convincing those individuals who are in fact capable of assessing that intrinsic logic. And even those less capable of that assessment are not able to show that the argument is invalid – as far as they can tell, it might very well be true.

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    3. Zeno - Yes, the premises are true or false, but a premise can be true without being 100% certain, and a conclusion can follow with deductive certainty from uncertain premises.

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    4. The question then comes down to whether the premises are "90% certain", and whether we are introducing equivocations with this phrasing. A-T claims that the premises are certain simply, not 90% certain. Those who are somewhat familiar with A-T but who have not bought into it fully may not agree that the premises are certain simply speaking, because of old habits of thought that they cannot easily shed, making their access to the "certainty" of the premises imperfect. They then see the premises as "very likely" or something of the sort, instead of certain simply speaking.

      Since some of the premises are first principles, they cannot be proven properly speaking. They can only be illustrated or clarified or manifested or explained. The distinctions of potency and act, and of form and matter are of that sort.

      But even while these premises cannot be proven, it may be possible to clarify the position that their status is NOT like that of "probable" premises, i.e. premises that are properly speaking probable, in that their NATURE is only probable, and thus will always make syllogisms using them only probable arguments. Statements about future contingents are clearly of that sort. The distinction between potency and act is not like that, it is true. (Or it is false.) Simply. Those who cannot see the truth simply might be able to be led to see its character as different from "probable" even if they cannot see its certainty.

      If I tell you on the phone that I have lost my hand, you don't know then if I am telling the truth or not, but you can see that I know whether I am telling the truth. The statement I made is not "probable" in the way statements of future contingents are probable. Your uncertainty of its truth is not because it's own nature bears a probability rate less than 100%.

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    5. While I get that the 90% figure is just a toy number for illustration purposes, it's worth bearing in mind that while 90% probability seems quite high, it's actually pretty low. You might say you're 90% sure of something, but if you consider 10 statements to each have 90% probability of being true, then as a ball-park estimate, about 1 of those statements is probably false. If you are pretty sure of the truth of a statement, and want to try to quantify that with a probability estimate, 90% is probably too low. (Another illustration: would you make any large bets on the result of a d10 roll? I don't think I'd be comfortable with that...)

      If we change our probabilities, again for illustration purposes, to 99%, then 20 premises each at 99% probability come to about 82% probability overall (assuming, that is, that each premise is independent). 82% is still fairly low, but nowhere near 12%.

      And there are several cases where I think it would be reasonable to estimate probabilities of 99.99% or higher.

      The general point you were making, namely that the conjunction of many seemingly probable premises, will always result in a less probable conclusion, still stands. But it is worth noting that the extent to which this happens is quite sensitive to what your initial probabilities are. A 90% probability results in what seems at first a counter-intuitively low 12%; while a 99% probability results in a somewhat more intuitive 82%. (At least, more intuitive to me anyway)

      A really good exercise is to try to calibrate your intuitions about how to estimate probabilities against real data/events. Some rationalist spaces in the blogosphere are quite good places to see some examples of this.

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  10. Dr Feser,

    Are you familiar with Robert Brandom's anti essentialist argument? I believe he mentions it in his book Articulating Reasons. The argument is that since the action of a normative being changes, then we can't talk about essences in normative beings.

    Thank you

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  11. Do you think artificial general intelligence takeoffs (of the terminator/iRobot/etc variety) falsify Christianity or be evidence against it for eschatological reasons? What about significant biological engineering that created a substantially different species of human descendants? Basically do we have reason to think that if the stuff of hard sci fi happens then Christianity probably isn’t true?

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    1. I don't think so at all, on two grounds.

      First, science fiction writers are in the business of guessing what might happen suppose some fact that is now so, were to be not so in the future (like, in the past, it was not possible to go to the Moon, so they premised the possibility of getting to the moon). They need not suppose something that REALLY could happen, to write their story.

      There is nothing in science (as opposed to science fiction) that tells us true, rational AI is possible. There are any number of people who SUPPOSE it is possible, but that is merely their supposition. There is no science backing it up. Indeed, the state of science of the mind is all over the map, still stuck on all sorts of difficulties of very fundamental types (like definining true thinking). A-T philosophy argues that rational material beings need an immaterial soul, and that takes God's direct agency. So, they argue, true AI will never exist. Therefore, it cannot be a defeater to Christianity. In any case, science fiction claims about future AI could not be that defeater.

      I assume that if relatively normal human life goes on for 200 more years, there will be shockingly drastic alterations for genetically modified beings derived from normal humans. These modified beings will either be dead, or human in essence even if they are morphologically very weird. Their shape, size, and limbs (and even senses) won't determine their essence. They will be human because they will remain rational animals ordered to the love of God according to human nature. David Oderberg spoke to this:
      https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieMFZZVFYtN3dGUHc/view?resourcekey=0-z0bJni2O2yhdnhEeag6oZA

      I would argue that while you could imagine such a radical departure from the human genome that you got beings that were no longer, say, in 2 sexes, and therefore were not "human" properly speaking, I doubt that would actually be possible. Rather, I suspect that the resulting beings would be deformed human beings who were STUNTED by their genomic changes, not abled according to a different nature. (For example I doubt we could be successful in forming new beings (from humans) who reproduce in 3 real sexes.) We might not now know what the limits of genomic re-writing will be, but there WILL BE some limits.

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    2. I was only using science fiction as illustration. Obviously science fiction itself isn’t a defeater of anything. The question about AI is whether human level AI and a terminator like scenario would be evidence against Christianity or falsify it. The question is not whether it’s possible. I agree it seems like we don’t know. Though I think there are easier ways to motivate it’s plausibility than you seem to think (eg imagine we are able to make a computer whose circuitry matches a human brain as closely as possible in a hundred years, or imagine simply that one of the language models of Open AI ends up being able to write blog posts that no one could distinguish from an Ed feser blog post.)

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    3. If human civilization continues for another millennium, I assume that we probably WILL be able to produce computers that are - at least to known standards - of similar storage size and complexity with the human brain. The rate of change over the last 50 years suggests that. But the notion that this means we would therefore plausibly have "computers that think" (like humans) requires additional assumptions, e.g. that "thinking like humans only takes computing with enough data storage and complexity". That business of additional assumptions is the problem. A-T does not grant such an assumption, rather it argues the contrary. So, for Thomist Christians, the prospect of sufficiently complex future computers or software does not stand for a possible defeater of Christianity.

      If, instead, you want to simply ASSUME - as a postulate - human-level AI thinking computers, and then ask "would that be a defeater to Christianity", that's different. And I admit I don't know. I have heard of Christian science fiction thinkers arguing whether there could be "intelligent" (i.e. human-like) beings that did not have immaterial souls, or intelligent beings that did not have free will. I know that Thomism says it is impossible to have human-like intelligence without an immaterial soul, but I don't recall if that is part of Catholic dogma or not. I would not be surprised if it is not part of dogmatic teaching, in which case (arguably) a real instance of it would not be a defeater to Christianity.

      or imagine simply that one of the language models of Open AI ends up being able to write blog posts that no one could distinguish from an Ed feser blog post.)

      Heh, that would take some doing.

      I think it is important to remember that the Turing test for intelligence is (a) STILL only a proposal for how to tell, (a proposal that can be rejected - it's not like it has been proven to be the best testing method), and (b) is an epistemological-based criterion, not a DEFINING criterion whether something "really is" intelligent. It is possible that a computer that is certainly NOT intelligent can still pass such a test. Note, also, that the Turing test is, per se, subjective - different people will respond affirmatively or negatively to the same computer, and without a prior (more definitive) basis, one could never assign the various responses as "right" or "wrong". In effect, we are still a long ways off from a satisfactory answer for how to tell.

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    4. Thanks for your thoughts Tony! Interestingly, Alex Pruss wrote some thoughts on this yesterday that you might find interesting. http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2022/05/chinese-room-thought-experiments.html?m=1

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  12. Hey Ed,

    You once mentioned reading John Searle and wanting to write like him when you were younger.

    Do you have any advice for people who want to write better?

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    1. Ray,

      William Vallicella, on his blog, has written a good answer to your question: To write well, read well.

      https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2019/02/to-write-well-read-well.html

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  13. How do spies and undercover cops deal with the immorality of lying?

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    1. At a guess: by being immoral.

      That was, in the days of yore, the presumptive status of spies: they were immoral.

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  14. Guys, how should we interpret, metaphysically speaking, xiphopagus twins in relation to formal cause? I know that's not a problem at all for A-T Meta, I'm just curious how to interpret it.

    May God bless us all!

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  15. Anyone has anything to comment on one of the best documented poltergeist cases as per below:
    (Don’t skip the first 9 min)

    https://youtu.be/3rDzKIZGUL0


    Cheers!
    johannes y k hui

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    1. If you're talking about the one in Gary, Indiana, I find it suspicious how one later interview of the mom and the cop has the mom suddenly adding that a voice like something dead said "We have been waiting for six months!" when they moved into the house, a detail not mentioned at all in the lengthy indy star article about the haunting, and the cop suddenly saying tha t avocet " "Like something dead" shouted "You in there!" into his car radio when he left. His prior report just said "A kind of voice" without mentioning any words audible. And what's this with looking up the names of "High ranking demons including generals and sergeants"? I have seen 0 exorcists describe demons has having ranks named after military ones, and cannot find any such instances on google. I take exorcists with a suspicious eye, the Vatican's chief exorcist Gabriel AMroth, before he died, wrote he had done some 30,000 exorcisms over the course of nine years, leading staff at Catholic answers to criticism him for lying, pointing out he'd have to do eight or nine a day every day for nine years if that were true. And there's that Vincent Lampert video where someone asks him about Pokemon and he casually says "A bishop at the exorcist's conference told me Pikachu means 'More powerful than God'".

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    2. No, I was not referring to Gary. I was referring to the case in Enfield, UK. Google “Enfield poltergeist”

      johannes y k hui

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    3. You might find the following article interesting:
      https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/may/01/the-enfield-poltergeist-a-skeptic-speaks

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  16. Professor Feser: How do you square your view that the moral state of a soul is unchangeable at death with a belief in Purgatory where souls are purged of disordered desires. Surely that purging and reordering of an imperfect soul involves change?

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    1. It's not a matter of purging "disordered desires"; it's a matter of being purged of the temporal effects of sin.

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    2. Maybe. But I think there’s still a problem here. In Feser’s posts about hell, the “frozen-ness” of the soul is given as the reason hell is eternal. But if the soul sans body is frozen in the relevant sense, that only explains why these souls are stuck in hell between death and the resurrection. Once reunited with a body at the resurrection, the re-ordering of that soul becomes a possibility. You have to annex some argument to say that the glorified body plus soul is frozen, but that seems very speculative and at hoc.

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    3. Alternatively, perhaps Purgatory is physical and those within it are still possessed of bodies?

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    4. The bodies we will all get at the resurrection are incorruptible, I think. That is, they are not capable of substantial change.

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  17. Not a question but more a statement: been waiting for your book on the soul with great anticipation - I can't wait for it to be released!

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    1. I'm think Dr Feser is probably finishing up his book on the soul. Actually, he probably has several projects going on now. He's a prolific, scholarly and best-selling philosopher.

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  18. Hey Dr. Feser,
    What would natural law theory say about vegetarianism or veganism? Is it wrong to eat animals? If not, is it wrong to eat animals that you know have been maltreated?

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    1. In his book "The Last Superstition", Edward is shocked that vegetarianism is even a thing.

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    2. If i got this right, on natural law theory rights are dependent on having obligations, which in turn depend on having a intellect to be able to compreend your own inherent teleology and a will to be able to choose to behave correctly or not. Since non-rational creatures have neither, they don't have obligations and, ergo, no rights. i writed on this myself, actually.

      If you want a defense of the first part of what i said, see for instance from Ed "Classical Natural Law Theory, Property Rights and Taxation". There is also a asian philosopher who writed directly on veganism from a natural law perspective but i can't remember his name. Someone remembers the guy?

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  19. Under what circumstances is joking sinful? Are lies which are told within jokes immoral?

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  20. Professor Feser do you have anything that talks about divine simplicity and the trinity

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    1. He has written some posts on the Trinity. If you're looking for an easily accessible book on the topic, you may want to read James Dolezal's All That Is in God. He does a good job demonstrating divine simplicity's superiority to competing models such as theistic mutualism, but he doesn't adequately address the criticisms related to the coherence of his version of the Trinity.

      To be fair, Dolezal doesn't pretend to provide a full-blown defense of the Trinity itself. He rather points the reader to a paper he wrote (Trinity, Simplicity, and the Status of God's Personal Relations), but in my estimation, he is unsuccessful there too. If all that is in God is God, as we divine simplicity (DS) advocates like to say, that includes the categories of being that Dolezal utilizes to justify real distinction in God. I just don't see how the Trinity squares with DS.

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    2. Catholic Answers says he "has relations not parts".

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    3. @Anonymous, but the Catholic position is also that the relations are really distinct which of course means that the relations are really different from each other. If they are really different, it then follows that there are aspects of the essence that are unique to each relation. How, then, do you avoid composition?

      Moreover, if the relations are alike as to the essence, on what basis are they distinct? It appears the very thing that makes them alike cannot be the basis of their difference.

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    4. What does that mean? To have relations with no parts.

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  21. Most polling on the issue of Roe v Wade across different questions such as , is it relevant enough to sway people's votes etc seem to be indicating mixed results. I'd venture to guess that most people aren't really animated to defend the general case scenario of abortion because people tend to vote with regards to the issues which are directly relevant to them such as gas prices, inflation etc. That's why Dems seem to be pivoting to the extreme case scenarios (victim of sexual assault etc) and at times in a rather embarassing way towards tangential issues such as contraception, gay marriage. Of all these issues though it seems to me what could hurt conservatives in a very devastating way politically is, the victims of sexual assault issue, many prominent conservatives try to sidestep the issue by stating it's rare etc and even more problematically they fail to underscore the fact that life is sacred in all circumstances, while talking about this issue. This seems to be done for political reasons of not wanting to talk about this uncomfortable topic and alienating voters. The most recent example being the Governor of Mississippi who sort of embarrassed himself. Conservatives need to come up with a proper response to this issue. I think that most people agree that it takes heroic virtue to carry the child of one's perpetrator to term. Although heroic virtue doesn't mean there was any other morally legitimate option, but it's mainly the circumstances which make it heroic. I think that the state should initiate some scheme for the women who undergo this traumatic situation, by providing some kind of lifetime funding or guarantee/ regarding the education, housing, career and well being of these women. Give them a chance to heal, a chance to pursue the dreams they had before the tragic event, the state should take the responsibility of making sure that all the conditions that are required to help these women find beauty in life are fulfilled. Thoughts ? In other news, nice to see Gavin Newsom think that only women can get pregnant. Any guesses on how long will that last?

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    1. I think you are right that right-thinkers need to be prepared to deal with babies as the result of rape in a forthright manner. The fact that it is incredibly rare can be an appropriate point, but only in SOME arguments, not all. In other arguments, its frequency is an irrelevancy.

      I agree that a state-aided support structure for any such mother is a good idea. I don't think "lifetime funding" is automatically the right solution - after all, she can and may well want to give the baby up for adoption. And (arguably) if she wants to keep the baby out of a heroic (at first) love, that is her preference, not a necessity that binds the state for the rest of her life. (Imagine her getting married to someone else in 2 years: why would the state go on supporting her forever?) But support for housing, health care, family / career assistance until the baby is, say, in pre-school, makes sense. Though there is no reason that ALL of this support needs to come from the state - there are other agents of help.

      In other news, nice to see Gavin Newsom think that only women can get pregnant.

      I was amused, in reading the Alito opinion draft, that one of the arguments made by the opposition implied JUST THAT: the false claims that the old abortion laws were targeting women require an assumption that it is only women who get pregnant.

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    2. Give women "lifetime funding or guarantee/ regarding the education, housing, career and well being" for carrying a child conceived in rape -- and you'll get lots of false claims of rape. We already have a false rape report rate of ~41% (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8135653).

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    3. Dear Tony, Thank You for your insightful response and in general for always providing some engagement with my talking points, the lifetime clause in my proposed system would sort of be on a optional basis , as in if the victim wants she can avail of it at any point of their life. I am factoring the scenario in which this woman may never heal from the trauma ,The main aim of these scheme would be teenage mothers who are victims because their lives are the ones who will br destroyed the most by this act and they would in all likelihood require the aid to heal from this trauma for the months they might lose from their education in delivering the baby, the fact they might never be able to trust a man again in their life, and may never get married, it's a wound it's hard to heal from and could be compounded if one falls into poverty etc, so it's these woman who deserve a better chance at life. Maybe she might choose not to avail of it , maybe she might be settled. But the point is that these women shouldn't be abandoned. They could avail of it if they require and if they don't they could forfeit it but the state should be there for them.

      Hi Mouse
      It's sad that some women downplay the actual trauma faced by actual victims, it seems to me though it's unlikely that a wife would falsely accuse her own husband of rape and their child being conceived in that circumstances. The most likely candidate for a false accusation would be a single woman who bore a child after consensual sex with a man but was then abandoned by the man. While it isn't right per say, I would say that the man deserves it in a certain sense. I think that my proposed scheme could have some measures for determining the truth or falsity of a claim perhaps in corporation with the police department. The fact that a particular scheme may have some people who are not actually applicable for it doesn't mean that those who are actually applicable and genuinely desire it and may need it , be denied from getting it.

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  22. Humble request, Prof Feser, Please refrain from tweeting spoilers about Marvel films :)

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. Resolved: Inasmuch as Roman Catholics do not pray publicly now, and indeed have never prayed publicly, anything remotely related to support the claims of Pastor Aeternus, that they do not believe those claims; and that this lack of any public declaration of common faith regarding Pastor Aeternus renders the claims of Pastor Aeternus to be without the deposit of faith.

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    1. (1) The assumption is false; Pastor aeternus is filled with things that are also prayed in the liturgy; besides the Scriptural context to which it appeals, the themes come up in commemorations of popes, and so forth. This is not surprising since Pastor aeternus was actually affirming things in the liturgy already, and is largely pulling together things from Scripture and the liturgy.

      (2) The inference is incorrect; while public prayer is the most important way such things are received, nothing whatsoever requires that it be the only way. Indeed, we know it is not; the common preaching of the Apostles was not 'without the deposit of faith' even if not all of what they preached was explicitly prayed.

      (3) The assumption of the inference is false: there isn't a "lack of any public declaration of common faith" because a general council publicly declared it as the common faith.

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    2. Well, how do you square what you say with the collect for the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, for example? "Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter's confession of faith." This is at some variance with Pastor Aeternus.

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    3. Resolved: Inasmuch as no Christian denomination prays publicly anything remotely resembling the principle that for a proposition to be of the deposit of faith, it has to be explicitly prayed about, it follows that no denomination believes this, and hence this proposition does not belong to the deposit of faith.

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    4. Anonymous at 10:51am: You are going to have to be more specific about your argument. If I guess what you're trying to say, you are making the false assumption that calling Peter's confession of faith 'rock' is inconsistent with calling Peter 'Rock'; in fact neither excludes the other and both are traditional.

      But in any case, you are changing the terms of the resolution, which claimed that the Church has never prayed publicly anything remotely related to supporting the claims of Pastor aeternus. This 'never' cannot be established by a single, relatively recent prayer (the Tridentine prayers for the same feast were all about Peter being given the keys of the Kingdom and the pontifical power of binding and loosing) interpreted in a single way.

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  25. I've always found human freedom difficult to think about. There seem to be a couple of ways to reconcile the Omniscience of God with the fact that a human individual is truly free. I've found 'pop' explanations, such as one offered by Bishop Barron about him liking Bob Dylan therefore it being predictable that he would go to a Dylan concert in his living room, unsatisfying. Similar formulations talk about me knowing the sun will come up but not causing it to. I'd object that I don't know the sun will come up (it might explode), and if there was a situation where I did know, then the sun wouldn't be free, i.e. it is a deterministic physical system which I have perfect knowledge of the initial conditions of such that I can make an accurate prior claim to knowledge about it's later state. Similarly with Bishop Barron, if I know in advance that his response to his passion for Bob D is certainly going to cause him to stay for a concert in his living room, it seems that the information that he will stay exists in my mind prior to him choosing to do so. In this case, isn't he just a slave to his passions? On the other hand we do seem to want to preserve some personal continuity that would inform free choice, otherwise anyone free would randomly flit between completely unpredictable actions. Is there a slightly deeper classical theist or Thomistic framework for understanding these questions about freedom in relation to God?

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    1. 1. In the future, x will be true.
      2. I know that x will be true in the future.
      3. Therefore, x will be true necessarily in the future or x is not free.

      We need an extra premise so that the conclusion follows.

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  26. Human freedom and Divine Omniscience is tricky! I vaguely remeber there being two schools of thought in The Church about how to reconcile the two. I've found 'pop' explantions unsatisying. One I heard was that, even though I know the sun will come up tomorrow, I didn't cause it to. I could object that I don't know, because it might explode for example. Say I did know though, then it seems like the sun isn't free, just a determinstic physical system that I have enough knowlege of to predict its later states perfectly. Bishop Barron gives an example where he explains he is a big fan of Bob Dylan. If somebody held a Bob Dylan concert that was very conveinient for him to attend (his living room) he argues I could know in advance he would go, without violating his freedom. I'd argue though, that if the information that he would attend exists in my mind prior to his 'descsion' to attend he is just a slave to his passion in that moment, and not truely free. On the other hand, if he was completely unpredictable, that seems to violate a sense of personal continuity, and God's Omniscience. Is there some slightly deeper classical theist/Thomist literature on the subject?

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    1. The mere knowledge of something is not causal. That appears to be mixing categories. More precisely, see Foreknowledge and Free Will. The mistake is called the modal fallacy.

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    2. St. Thomas Aquinas is clear that the divine foreknowledge is the primary cause of events.

      https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1014.htm#article8

      "On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. xv), 'Not because they are, does God know all creatures spiritual and temporal, but because He knows them, therefore they are.'

      "I answer that, The knowledge of God is the cause of things. For the knowledge of God is to all creatures what the knowledge of the artificer is to things made by his art. Now the knowledge of the artificer is the cause of the things made by his art from the fact that the artificer works by his intellect. Hence the form of the intellect must be the principle of action; as heat is the principle of heating. Nevertheless, we must observe that a natural form, being a form that remains in that to which it gives existence, denotes a principle of action according only as it has an inclination to an effect; and likewise, the intelligible form does not denote a principle of action in so far as it resides in the one who understands unless there is added to it the inclination to an effect, which inclination is through the will. For since the intelligible form has a relation to opposite things (inasmuch as the same knowledge relates to opposites), it would not produce a determinate effect unless it were determined to one thing by the appetite, as the Philosopher says (Metaph. ix). Now it is manifest that God causes things by His intellect, since His being is His act of understanding; and hence His knowledge must be the cause of things, in so far as His will is joined to it. Hence the knowledge of God as the cause of things is usually called the 'knowledge of approbation.'"

      This doesn't lead to occasionalism or determinism because St. Thomas doesn't think primary causes eliminate the need for secondary causes.

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  27. Hello Dr. Feser,

    I often go back and forth on theistic evolutionism. One of my greatest concerns is that gradualism seems to violate the law of excluded middle by positing that a thing becomes a thing without at some definitive point in time becoming that thing. The only way I see to reconcile this would be to posit that God directly causes speciation by divine intervention (which would just be a modified form of creationism) or to say that species overlap and something can be more than one species at the same time (which seems to trivialize the idea of species since it comes from a Latin word meaning "to look", and nothing has more than one "look").

    How would you answer this as someone who is at least comfortable with TE?

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    1. If I'm not mistaken, Maritain was of the opinion that there are only two bona fide species, human and otherwise. Thus, that whole swath of species save for humans is really not undergoing speciation, but some kind of glorified adaptation. Human beings are distinct by virtue of our immortal souls which were "infused" into some members of this superspecies through a special divine act. (Note that by "human" I do not have in mind the phylogenetic sense, but the ontological sense, which means you could count intellectual and free willed aliens as humans.)

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    2. That's an interesting idea, but Dr. Feser is an Aristotelian essentialist who believes other species have distinct ends, so I'd be interesting in hearing his perspective.

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    3. Maritain was of the opinion that there are only two bona fide species, human and otherwise.

      I always thought Maritain was suspect. This confirms it.

      If "there are only 2 species", then the entire apparatus we constructed to EXPLAIN the natural world in terms of species distinct in kind, with different natures, is unfounded. We are pretty darn sure that oak trees are not dolphins, in nature. If we don't know that, we've got big, big problems with the rest of the theory.

      That said, it is plain from ordinary thinking that there can easily be things that we name as if they were different species, that really aren't, or at least NEED NOT BE considered different in kind properly speaking. We talk as if wolves and dogs are different, but they interbreed quite regularly. Horses and donkeys interbreed. Lions and tigers can breed to produce ligers and tigons. I would be fine with a suggestion that all of the great cats are one species, philosophically speaking, all of the many deer / antelopes are one in species, etc.

      There is nothing in the evolutionary record, such as it is, (or from revelation) that positively precludes God acting by direct intervention at the generation of every new species. Even if that meant it occurred 50 million times, there is nothing in principle wrong with that. It is primarily those who really don't like the idea of God acting AT ALL who throw up the biggest objections.

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  28. New (?) argument for theism just dropped, the "argument from psychophysical harmony": what explains the harmony between the qualia of conscious states and the behavior/cognition they cause? For instance, what makes it more than a lucky accident that pain consciously HURTS and also causes us to avoid certain things? Curious how this could fit into an Aristotelian/Thomistic framework, e.g. by ascribing conscious states with a certain teleology.

    https://philarchive.org/rec/CUTPHA

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    1. I’ve wondered that listening to Sam Harris who seems implicitly committed to epiphenomenalism. If mental states just are states that arise from physical process, then it does seem an incredible matter of luck that they are so well synchronized. It could be the case that sex caused pain and injury led to pleasure and we would still avoid injury and seek sex. After all it’s the underlying physical process that is causing us to seek or avoid and the conscious mental state is just along for the ride. With no power to influence behavior why is it that mental states just so happen to fall the way they do?

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  29. Any thoughts on the argument that God must be subject to natural laws? It's from "Atheism Explained" by David Steele.If God exists, then it must be the case that everything God wills comes about. If the statement is true it means that there is a natural law independent of God's will. This is a pre-existing natural regularity to which God is subject. Therefore, there just is an impersonal law which is fundamental to the universe independent of the existence of God.

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    1. I don't get it.

      Laws are just shorthand descriptive summaries about the behaviors of individuals. There is no "law" floating "out there" and around somewhere in the aether governing formless and chaotic matter. Material things have natures and therefore behave according to those natures.

      When God wills certain things with their natures, he wills them to be a certain way. Those things are contingent on God, not the other way around. God is not so much bound by the natures of those things as he is bound by his own will, if you can call that binding. After all, a thing's nature is what God wills it to be, so to suppose that God is subject to his creation gets it wrong. To propose that God could will something to be the case and also contradict Himself by willing its negation is simply nonsensical.

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    2. Bayou Catholic
      Where in La. are you from? I once lived in Alexandria.

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    3. Another one of the shorthand descriptive summaries of the behavior of the universe is that it obeys the will of God. When God speaks into precreation, “Let there be light” it is ordered in such a way that it obeys his commands. It’s a natural fact the same as f=ma.
      https://www.patheos.com/blogs/tippling/2017/02/06/can-prove-no-god

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    4. Bayou Catholic: The blog post you link to takes as an unstated assumption that the Universe such that it is is coeternal with God, i.e. that there can even **be** facts about the universe outside of the commands of God. In other words, it argues "take as an assumption that God did not create the universe. Therefore, God did not create the universe".

      On the whole, it seems that the argument you (and the blog post) are making rely on the assertion that *behaviors* are more fundamental than *existence*, which is rather nonsensical.

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  30. I've been thinking of what sorts of arguments someone could give to critique the use/practice of pornography, and I want to see what everyone else thinks of the argument below.

    Here's the outline of the argument:

    1. It is wrong to use a person as a means to an end.
    2. Pornography uses the participant(s) as a means to an end.*
    3. Therefore, pornography is wrong.

    (* The viewer uses the participants as a means to his/her own sexual stimulation)

    I'm not implying that this is the only reason why pornography is wrong; nor is it necessarily the main reason why it's wrong.

    Does this sort of argument fall within the Natural Law approach to addressing this issue? And, if not, what would a Natural Law approach look like?

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    1. While sexual immorality, including viewing pornography, may involve using a person as means to an end, the more fundamental reason for its being wrong is the misuse of our sexual faculties. Our sexual faculties, given what they are, are directed towards union with another real person, not an image or fantasy object. Pornography takes what should be a drive directed towards another and turns it inward, frustrating its unitive end ( and procreative end for that matter). This allows that there can be immoral sexual activity in which the actors are not using each other instrumentally.

      Gaven Kerr recently remarked on his facebook page that the virtue of chastity has that name because it "chastens" our concupiscient desires. It's first concern is the good of the individual and bringing his appetites into obedience to reason.

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  31. Hi Dr. Feser,

    How do you engage the arts, media, and entertainment (music, movies, TV shows, etc.) as a faithful Catholic?

    For example, I try to be as a faithful a Catholic as possible albeit I'm not perfect. I've also lived in NYC my entire life, and my immediate musical influences have been rap, hip-hop, and pop. My friend groups throughout my life have had the same sort of influences. I don't exclusively listen to that music, especially as of late, but the music still affects me because I really dig the beats, flow, and rhythm of the music. The problem of course is that the lyrical content can be quite often degrading, vulgar, and filthy.

    There are musical artists who try to tone down the vulgarity in their lyrics, but I find that the music doesn't affect me as much. I'm thinking of an artist like NF who doesn't cuss or rap filthily, but there's a limit to what I can get out of his music. Juxtaposed, you might have someone like Kanye who is simply the best (I think). But his lines are absolutely a horror to listen to.

    Considering that this is the sort of music I was raised around (family hated it; my friends didn't), I struggle with what I know and what I feel. I know the music is disgusting, but I dig the music. More precisely, I think I would like to know how should I be engaging popular culture? At a distance? In proximity? A third way? Idk.

    The same applies for movies. Are all horror movies and movies with nudity and sex off limits? Or is there a way to engage with the content and critically analyze these movies without throwing it all out for particular scenes? Of course, there are boundaries that should never be crossed (i.e., blasphemy, sacrilege, desecration, etc.). I guess a solution could be either relativistic (to each their own), pluralistic (everyone has their own boundary so find what works for you), or absolutist (best not engage in anything of the world because something bad can be found in it). I just don't find any of them all that satisfying. So yeah ... any advice you (or others) may have to share with me would be helpful. Thanks!

    God Bless,
    Kristian

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    1. I don't know if this will address your question specifically, but I do know of at least one Catholic Hip hop group you could listen to. They're called "Pontifex". They're on Spotify. They've made three albums so far:
      1. Ordained (2011)
      2. The Symphony and the Static (2013)
      3. Letters from the Wasteland, Vol. 1 (2017)

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    2. Kristian, that's a tough question. I don't know if there is a truly satisfying answer out there. The best I can offer is this: the feeling you have for the worse sorts of music are in you by habituation, and therefore they can also be CHANGED by habituation. You can choose to reduce their hold on your affective faculties by choosing to listen to other things. I don't mean EXCLUSIVELY, i.e. going cold turkey over to utterly different types of music. I mean by degrees and parts. 2 examples: within one genre, (like rap) there will be at least a FEW pieces that you like that are less gratuitously filthy than others. Locate what it is in those few that you like, and search out others in a similar vein.

      Secondly, even if you mainly like rap, hip hop, and pop, I have yet to run into a person who didn't ALSO like a few things in completely different worlds of music. For example, many people love this or that movie sound track: The Lord of the Rings, for example, has parts that really grab people. Or try Chariots of Fire, which won an Oscar for its music score. These can be so UNLIKE other forms of music that they don't even register in your own personal lists of "ugh, hate that kind of music". There are some REALLY different music forms out there, you could run into a few that just tickle your musical funny bone. Then you could gravitate (at least some of the time, not cold turkey) to those without feeling much of a pinch from "giving up" on the usual rap, hip hop, etc.

      Anecdotally: I had never in my life intentionally listened to classical music, only rock, until a music teacher in school put on Beethoven's 5th. I was shocked that I liked the stuff - enough to try out others. I still hate half (or more) of what people call "good" classical music, but I will go out of my way to listen to some of it. And I still remember my outrage 45 years ago upon hearing Rossini's Overture to the Barber of Seville: "Hey, that's Bugs Bunny music!!"

      So, don't think of it as a one-month project, or a 1-year project; more of a decade or two, and (especially at first) more of ADDING more music to your regular lists than taking away. The more you add in of other things, gradually, the more the filthy stuff will become just a sideline, over time.

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    3. Years ago the Hare Krishnas gathered in front of The May Company chanting their awful noise driving good people nuts. Some genius solved the problem by playing classical music through loud speakers driving the Hare Krishnas nuts and causing them to flee.
      The problem is that you have bad taste in music,
      You have to cultivate good taste in music.
      Listen to classic music. It has pleasing sounds, order, and beauty. Make an effort to understand the purpose of music and why Beethoven is so great.
      Ask yourself why you find Rapp appealing; what is the purpose of Rapp and what it is doing to you.
      Finding teenage music no longer satisfying is part of growing up.

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    4. Kristian, I can definitely relate. I grew up listening to hip hop. I think part of the appeal of the vulgarity, besides just mere shock value, is that it gives off a sense of authenticity, which people gravitate to.

      Tony is right. You need to cultivate enjoyment in good music. Don't do it so quick though. But take what is good in the music you like and study it, seek out more of it. You can then see it in other music and it can slowly drive a change in you.

      I disagree with those who are purists about art though, beauty can be found even in rap music, but it is a minefield.

      Along with Michael's suggestion, another explicitly Catholic rapper is E-Knock. He just released the album, Traditionis. Here's the lead single: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtLx0VYupAk

      Sure, he isn't any Kanye West, but it's pretty decent production, delivery and lyrics for a completely independent artist, I think. Just a consideration.

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  32. Although the general theme has been covered by Ed Feser and others - dating back to C.S. Lewis - it is interesting to see this "dominion over Nature" (i.e. human nature) issue arise in the news and in the precise and historically relevant context right here in our very own society.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chyEm9lw-Gc

    Tucker Carlson is no - or has not been - a particularly philosophically minded commentator. But it seems he is being pushed in that direction by current events; and as the associative and worldview fault lines in our polity become increasingly deep and clear.

    What is particularly interesting (as men like Feser back to Lewis have implied or pointed out) is the way in which atheistic, or specifically, anti-theistic materialists, or naturalists as they would now have it, seem inevitably to segue into a queer and dark quasi-spirituality or supernaturalism; as the god-like pretensions and claims to dominion of these atheists increase in boldness, intensity, and ardor.

    These ex hypothesi purely material beings, reducible to a concatenation of chemical processes, manifesting as temporary and pointless "congeries of appetites" which do not know, or fully understand, much less create themselves, nonetheless begin to imagine themselves as entitled re-shapers of all reality; who, will rule by force of their (per materialist assumptions) fundamentally inchoate and disjoint (as effects rather than integrated or unified causes) wills.

    This being which would itself be "god" then, manifests to the world in a "will" which cannot per definition be either conceptually coherent or sufficiently knowing on its own assumptions. Its will - if you can speak of a coherent "It" as "having" a will - is an effect, not a meaningful cause.

    Yet, the limited as it is willing-thing imagines, as the notions come bubbling up from within and below, its will to power is quasi-metaphysically justified. (as it has done also by deploying a rhetorical personification or deification of "evolution")

    Ultimately, this material bag of appetites, in effect claims a "moral" alignment with a more-than-figurative, or even crypto-cosmic force of some kind, which whispers to it: "Do as thou wilt."

    A contingent thing then, without even so much as a coherent will or a full understanding of its own origins and development, would seat itself in the chair of Nature, or even God, and blithely reshape all reality to suit "by any means necessary" ... in aid of it knows not what, for it knows not why.

    Boy, that is pretty close to being a devil, even if there are no such things.

    Very odd.

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    1. The really ironic thing is that the said demi-god that is that bag of appetites, if he succeeds in great degree in submitting all things around him to his sheer will, seems just in that success to cease to enjoy it much. The very act of demanding and getting, when effective opposition has become negligible, no longer suffice to make him happy with demanding and getting: the emptiness of such activity - if there is no further purpose to it - comes crashing down on his consciousness. Thus Satan laughs up his sleeve at this slave to sheer will he has produced, mocking him for selling his soul for what turns out to be empty even in this life.

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    2. " ... if he succeeds in great degree in submitting all things around him to his sheer will, seems just in that success to cease to enjoy it much."

      Well, how could it?

      It/he, is motivated by impulses it/he does not really understand much less command itself, and does not admit, according to its own view of reality, as amenable or subject to the arbitration of reason. Nor, as generative of norms. This, since, "reason", according to its own lights, is a purely instrumental faculty for obtaining satisfaction of what the "it" feels as cravings, and then "focuses on getting" - i.e., the act of will.

      There is in that scheme no essential nature, or intrinsic teleology, to the thing doing the willing - or as you might alternatively say according to the "anthropology" (let's still term it) of the willing-thing: i.e., the entity, coherent or not, manifesting those acts of will,

      If "it" could be said to have a nature or identity - according to its own assumptions - that nature could only be identified in the act of willing, or the manifestation of an impulse toward satisfaction itself, and not in any intrinsic and specific (species) teleology aiming beyond the immediate, or better, superficial, feedback loop.

      It is therefore a creature, or better an "existant", of happenstance and chance; manifesting in a context that is fundamentally meaningless and absurd.

      It has no justification for what it does. It just does what it does on the basis of urges and impulses which can only be said to be their own justification; but bearing no normative unity. The whole thing is a concatenation.

      As I have remarked before, I don't know how, being an analytical philosopher and presumably not a phenomenologist, Feser saw that too.

      Nonetheless he came up with the phrase "congeries of appetites" on his own: and if my teeth had been false when I saw it, they would have dropped out of my head.

      I actually mentioned this interpretive construction and phrase to another professional philosopher (other than Feser, not other than me) as we were emailing on the subject of the grounding of morals, and he was forcibly struck by how the term formulated an unavoidable conclusion give the initial granting of certain progressive premisses.

      This formulation was so far as I know an offhand observation Feser arrived at simply by analyzing what it was that remained after one granted the progressive's worldview for the sake of argument, and then in a systematic reductio, stripped away all teleological framing and assumptions.

      [Though I don't know for a fact that that is how he actually reduced or derived it.]

      What then, back to the issue, remains in the way of essences, attributes, or powers, of the being - or locus - that had been formerly called "man" before we deconstructed him?

      As Deleuze and Guattari might happily have had it at a slight stretch: a cosmically pointless eating and shitt$^g "machine" having no center.

      "Congeries of appetites" is probably a more polite way of conveying roughly the same idea.

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  33. I'd like to know whom Edward Feser would rank as the fourth greatest philosopher of all time.

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    1. Why fourth? I'd like to see his list of top 5 greatest philosophers of all time. I can probably guess at least a couple, but there might be a surprise in there.

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    2. Why fourth?

      Because I have a reasonable guess as to who his top three are, though I'm less certain what the order is.

      And also because I figured I might get more replies if I asked in the way I did :P.

      But I'd also be interested in seeing his top five or top ten. Or from anyone else for that matter.

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    3. Because I have a reasonable guess as to who his top three are, though I'm less certain what the order is.

      Really? Obviously, an Aristotelian-Thomist is going to love Aristotle and Thomas. For a third? It could be any one of the Fathers or Doctors of the Church, or any one of a few dozen scholastics, etc. Of course, "greatest" is not a well-defined measure, because it can be done on the basis of various kinds of greatness: reputation, influence, and correctness being just 3. In one sense, clearly Plato would be "the greatest", because without him (a) Socrates would never have been known, (b) Aristotle would never have made his improvements on forms, and (c) Thomas would not have been able to build on Aristotle. As well as (d) putting the pursuit of "philosophy" on a footing more stable and noble than that which the sophists had given it.

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    4. I said I had a reasonable guess, not that I was certain.

      But yeah, my guess would be Aristotle, Plato, and Aquinas in some order. If my guess is correct, I think Plato would be behind Aristotle, but other than that, not sure what the order would look like.

      Yeah, of course, 'greatest' depends on the criteria you are using, but people tend to adopt an implicit criteria when coming up with their rankings of greats. Those criteria won't be perfectly commensurate between different people, but it's all for fun.

      How about you give us your top five?

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    5. I'm guessing he would have St. Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, and St. Augustine in the top three?

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  34. Is aging a disease? Or should we see it as a natural process of the body? Both?

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    1. It's natural in the sense that we are, by nature, contingent, thus it is natural that we would eventually deteriorate until we go out of existence.

      But it isn't natural in the sense that it's good for us. We are basically losing actuality as we get older and deteriorate, which is not good.

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  35. If anyone here is interested in reading about the Argument from Reason in more detail, I would recommend a book called "The Epistemological Skyhook: Determinism, Naturalism, and Self-Defeat" by Jim Slagle.
    It is probably the best book I have read on this argument so far. One of the nice things about this book is he goes through the previous 200 year history of this argument. He also shows that it has been defended by numerous writers for many years. Another nice thing about this book is that because of the many references to other writers who have used the argument, someone could (almost literally) read through the historical development of this argument in the past 200-300 years.

    One thing to keep in mind is whenever Slagle uses the word "natural law" (in the book) he is not referring to Natural Law theory, but rather to the laws of nature (physics, chemistry, etc.)

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  36. Any chance you could make your Intro to Leo Strauss available online somehow? The link from NRO is broken.

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  37. I'm curious if Dr. Feser has any opinions on the rise of young Catholic conservatives such as Nick Fuentes and John Doyle.

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  38. I have a question regarding potency as understood by A-T. Potencies are said to exist in the substance that has them (ex: The log has the potential to be burn and create heat). One criticism I have heard is that the idea of potency is hard to make sense of because if you extend the idea far enough everything has the potential to become anything else (ex: add enough logs together and they will become a star). So is the potential to become a star a potency that exists within the log? I am not sure if I am accurately presenting the critique or not, but the question still remains. How is potency supposed to be understood in order to give us real knowledge of substances?

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  39. How to instill good Christian morality in my children (pre 18 yo) based on solid theology (for their age, which they will only expand and deepen on as they grow) that stands the ground against the non Christian secular tide that is sweeping schools and all social venues?

    I know that you Prof. Feser are blessed with many kids, how do you go about doing that? Conveying a message to adults is one thing, but to children (and in an aggressive environment) is a dofferent thing altogether.

    I appreciate any guidance or references in this regard.


    Thank you

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    1. " I know that you Prof Feser are blessed with many kids - how do you go about doing that?"

      You mean that you REALLY don't know?

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    2. I would use analogy and story telling. The analogy used successfully in driving the point in a (advanced/adult) philosophical argument (in say showcasing the flasehood of homosexual sexual union) would do the job for children, I presume. Integrating the analogy in a story setting would engrave it even more in their minds.

      How would YOU go about equipping your little children in this regard? Any other propositions or resources for this?

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    3. There are as many good answers as there are good parents. Here's my short list (I have several kids, most now over 18):

      1. Cultivate the "life of reason" in the household. This means pursuing virtue in yourself, and using calm, settled reason to teach, correct, admonish, and punish (when necessary). It implies being in control of yourself when you respond to a kid doing something that naturally would make a parent angry. Run a household in which the expectation is paramount that everyone will grow toward a life of reason, kids and parents alike.

      2. Connect with a good parish, i.e. a good community of the local church (doesn't have to be the parish your home is in), more than just Sunday mass (much more if possible), to help the kids see a larger sphere that ALSO promotes the same values you promote at home. Also connect with, or form, a modest group of like-minded families to be the focus of most of your social interaction.

      3. Homeschool, or find a private school that TRULY instantiates the Church's view of real education of the whole person, putting spiritual and moral development up there along with the intellectual and physical. No public school in this country is a safe place for kids 7 hours a day, the secular mentality absolutely oozes through every textbook and every program. (Don't send them to secular colleges either, or any of the Catholic colleges either, except for the (roughly) 10 or so Catholic colleges that are ACTUALLY Catholic.)

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  40. I attend a Traditional Catholic (TC) Mass centre and I mix with traditional Catholics (TCs) as a result, and I read traditional Catholic blogs and articles online. I would like to comment on one aspect of TC culture which I find concerning.

    I am talking about homosexuality. Now, if you say to me do you think that homosexual acts are wrong and homosexual desires are disordered then I agree totally. This is the Church's position with which I concur.

    My problem is with the surrounding atmosphere and attitudes towards homosexual people. If the Catholic Church claims to be universal than it needs a place for the 2% or so of people who are homosexual.

    First off, there are TCs who deny flat out that there is such a thing as homosexuality. Everyone is heterosexual 'deep down'. Homosexuals should 'pull themselves together' and 'snap out of it' according to them.

    They are like the people who think that everyone speaks English in private and that their speech in Spanish or Mandarin etc. is just an affectation and a pretence.

    Then again a clergyman will preach against homosexuality and how wicked it is. It is good that someone should articulate TC teaching, to remind people of its continuing binding force.

    However the same clergyman needs to insist simultaneously that it is not the role of members of the congregation to appoint themselves as Queerfinder General and go round beating up people who are (or whom they suspect to be) homosexual. Homosexual people do not deserve to have their tyres slashed and their windows smashed. It is disingenuous for such a clergy man to claim that harm suffered by homosexual people is nothing to do with him.
    I also notice that TCs pride themselves on referring to homosexuals as 'sodomites'. Only about half of homosexual people are physically capable of being sodomites; the other half lack the necessary equipment.
    Even in the scientific world male homosexuality has been studied more extensively than female.
    In the past homosexuals were expected (in Catholic society) to go through life pretending to be heterosexual. Many people went through the motions of becoming engaged to a member of the opposite sex which they eventually broke off, the process giving them an explanation for remaining single. Uncharitable to the unwitting partner in the charade but condoned by the subject's family. Of course the other route to respectability for homosexuals in the past was to enter a monastery or convent! What could possibly go wrong?
    What would I like to see? I think that homosexual people should be able to identify themselves discreetly at social gatherings and for others to accept that they have their cross to bear and we have ours.
    I fail to see how a life of pretence is the proper response to the teachings of Christ.
    And me? I have been aware of being what I now call heterosexual from the age of four. Absolutely nothing to be proud of, however.

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    1. Hank.
      I am not homosexual, but I grew up at a time when homosexuals were reviled and persecuted. Thankfully, that has changed. Those "leanings" are who you are. What you do with them is something else. As you know, traditional Catholic morality teaches that only sexual relations between a married man and woman is lawful. That said, the Catechism of the Catholic Church in Section 2342 states that "self mastery is a long and exacting work." Even many heterosexual individuals struggle with their sexuality throughout their lives. We have recourse to prayer, confession and the Eucharist. But to repeat, that struggle is a "long an exacting work," and only God knows our soul, and He alone will judge us.

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    2. First off, there are TCs who deny flat out that there is such a thing as homosexuality. Everyone is heterosexual 'deep down'.

      Maybe you run in unusual circles, but I have not run into people like that even in TC groups.

      That said, everyone is "heterosexual" in the narrow sense, that we are called to be in two complementary sexes by nature, and that our natures call out in that complementarity for completion, which is what Genesis indicated in God's creating Eve to be with Adam, (whatever our felt inclinations are.) But we are called to love of God even more deeply than that, and we can (naturally) experience degrees of heterosexual inclination in the (also limited) sense that some are called to be celibate or single for the Kingdom. Our felt inclinations don't define us, our human nature does.

      In the disorders that arise from original sin and from other defects, some people have bent inclinations from their earliest memory, and some have them from causes that accrue jointly both from birth and from later causes. Furthermore, apparently, there is a wide range of experience on degrees of sexual orientation inclinations in young people, which often later resolve toward one orientation felt definitively. And then there are the people who self-identify that they had same-sex inclinations but who, through effort and time and grace, changed to having heterosexual inclinations.

      Given all these, it is reasonable to be cautious in declaring that some people "ARE" homosexual in a sense meant to be definitive. Since disordered inclinations (of any sort, sexual or otherwise) don't define humans, and since (with grace) any disorder might in theory be corrected, we can readily accredit that some people have disordered inclinations, even deep-seated ones that cannot be overcome by any known worldly cause or effort, without implying or pretending that such inclinations constitute a permanent and essential character of their persons.

      That said, it is not only pernicious but downright silly to suppose that all who feel same-sex attractions do so voluntarily, or to suppose that they "really" have heterosexual inclinations "deep down" as if they could somehow access such inclinations if only they tried "hard enough" or something.

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    3. In the past homosexuals were expected (in Catholic society) to go through life pretending to be heterosexual.

      The difficulty is in socially allowing room for the disordered inclinations to exist in someone who does nothing to cause or enhance them, while also socially disapproving not only the disordered actions but also willed and voluntary accession to such inclinations. While we have had, in Western Christianity, a long period where homosexual behavior and inclinations were socially disapproved, there were other times and places where they were not, and in some of those it seems plausible that the social permission for homosexual inclination and behavior led to increases in the inclination. Sparta and Athens come to mind.

      It is less than obvious how to arrange a social norm so that persons who (wholly involuntarily) suffer from SSA are well-supported in their trials, while at the same time sufficiently DISapproving of persons who voluntarily behave in ways that (at least in part) fulfill their disordered desires. For example, you suggest that those with SSA should be able to identify themselves discreetly at social gatherings, but it is hard to know how far that can go without negatively impacting the young whose affective dimension (especially regarding sexual inclination) is still maturing and (for some) is particularly unsettled. Possibly all such discussions need to be one-on-one between the SSA sufferer and the person who needs to know for perfectly reasonable social reasons.

      I agree, though, that the social stigma of the old days needs to be corrected: there should be no stigma of moral disapproval toward one who bears SSA without acting on those inclinations.

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    4. The FishEaters page (FishEaters is a trad site) on homosexuality is pretty nuanced: https://www.fisheaters.com/homosexuality.html

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    5. We can have sympathy for those who sincerely struggle with homosexual desires, but the bigger problem seems to me to be the opposite of what you describe: modern Christianity bends over backwards (or forwards, as the case may be) to make homosexuals feel loved and welcomed (and I’m not talking about ‘liberal’ Christianity, but traditional Christian churches which still regard homosexual acts as sinful).

      It seems to me that this is entirely due to homosexuality being a sin that is high status these days. We don’t treat most other sins this way: where is the welcoming, non-judgmental attitude toward racists, rapists, adulterers, child molesters, etc? We don’t typically say to the racist: “We judge racist acts to be wrong, and your racist attitudes are fundamentally disordered, but we understand that these are not necessarily chosen, that you struggle against them, and that this is a heavy cross for you to bear. We hope that you can discreetly identify yourself as one with opposite-race-hatred feelings at social gatherings so that we can accept that you have your cross to bear while we have ours.” We don’t treat racism and child molestation this way because these are low-status sins.

      However the same clergyman needs to insist simultaneously that it is not the role of members of the congregation to appoint themselves as Queerfinder General and go round beating up people who are (or whom they suspect to be) homosexual. Homosexual people do not deserve to have their tyres slashed and their windows smashed.

      Is this sort of thing actually happening? It certainly doesn’t align with anything I’ve experienced. Again, this seems to fit better as a description of the sort of behavior directed towards racists.

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  41. Question for Aristotelian metaphyisicians. I often hear it claimed that substances can't be parts of other substances. But prima facie it seems that they are: it seems like there really is water that is a part of of me, for example, and that water is a substance (and even maintains its identity if it no longer is a parts of me, such as if I cry about not understanding metaphysics).

    Just about the only argument I have seen against substances having other substances as parts is the one Feser gives for arguing that hydrogen and oxygen are only virtually (not really) present in water. But that one seems to me to equivocate on the meaning of terms: he successfully argues that hydrogen and oxygen _gas_ are not really present in water (and they can be said to be virtually present in water in that electrolysis of water produces these gases). But it seems pretty plausible that water (a substance) is really composed of H2O molecules (microscopic substances) which are really composed of H and O _atoms_ (further microscopic substances). In fact it seems it is the real presence of H and O atoms water in grounds the virtual presence of hydrogen and oxygen gas.

    What arguments are there that substances can be parts of, or act as the matter of, other substances?

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    1. I don't present this as a complete answer, only a partial response: even in a compound like water, where the hydrogen atom and the oxygen atom seem to be "themselves" and therefore properly "hydrogen" and "oxygen" substances, there remains good reason for doubting that they really are substantial and real beings in their own right. The chemical properties of the molecule are not like the chemical properties of the hydrogen or the oxygen, nor like an averaging of them. For example, the melting point of water is far, far higher than the melting point of either component.

      Moreover, two component elements can combine to provide two (or more) completely different compounds, depending on the ratios involved, and on other factors of the combination (e.g. types of bonds). And the resulting different compounds are decidedly NOT like each other with just minor differences in degree reflecting the different ratios, they act as completely different kinds.

      These and similar facts suggest that the kind of presence of the components in the compound, like hydrogen and oxygen, are not the same sort of presence as you get in a mere mixture of two bona fide independent substances. While it is undoubtedly true that something OF the hydrogen and the oxygen carry over into determining the nature and characteristics of water, what that "something" is, is not obvious at first glance. Certainly not many of the standard properties like melting point, boiling point, electrical conductivity, malleability, etc.

      (and even maintains its identity if it no longer is a parts of me, such as if I cry about not understanding metaphysics).

      Physically separating pieces of a thing away from (either by violence or by natural emissions) it may pose special problems, and it pays to tread cautiously. If we are right to use the above to think that maybe the activity of atoms and molecules inside the body will, at one and the same time, be "like" the actions of similar atoms and molecules NOT inside the body, but also (generally) ordered to the whole organism by an overarching causal principle (i.e. the soul), then it would naturally be quite difficult to distinguish that the activity of the same molecules, removed from the body, would be noticeably different from those of similar molecules that had never been part of the body. Nevertheless, some kind of differences can be noticed: while (during normal life) an organ undergoes constant refreshment to sustain ongoing life activities, when you remove the organ from the body, eventually it will undergo corruption into a mass of bio-slag. The removal thus accomplishes a severance of the organ from that principle of integration by which an organ normally stays healthy, and while this lack cannot be DIRECTLY observed immediately upon removal from the body, it can be INdirectly observed by the effect.

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    2. Yeesh, I'm not sure how that many typos ended up in that post; you'll have to forgive me! (The last line should read "what arguments are there that substances _can't_ be parts of other substances")

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    3. Tony, thanks for your response, somehow my reply to it ended up below.

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  42. What do Aristotelian-Thomist types, in general, think of David S Oderberg's paper about Prime Matter being what physics calls Energy? (It's here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00048402.2021.2010222?src=& -and FYI (and spoilers): Oderberg seems decidedly in favor of that Identity). I THINK it was one of the things Feser linked to, recently; though I know that Feser... at least USED to oppose that notion. His argument was that we can measure Energy, but we can't do that w/ PM; Oderberg's response is (I think) that we can measure the RESULTS of Energy, but not Energy ITSELF. That MIGHT miss a part of that objection: isn't PM supposed to be essentially unpredictable?

    Apart from that, it sounds pretty plausible, and... at least partially answers an objection I've always had to PM. It seems to me that PM posits the existence of a sort of something that is nothing in particular. Maybe we can answer that by saying that PM is a sort of property or quality of things. However: if the matter of a statue is unhardened clay, we might take it and reform it into, say, a pot- but it's always clay, whatever else it is- and PM isn't supposed to be like that! Energy, on the other hand (especially after reading Oderberg's paper) is more analogous to a fuel than the matter of a thing; and a fuel- of course- ceases to be itself by becoming active (wood turns to ash, petroleum into gas fumes, etc.). I'm not sure that answers all my issues, but it... moves in that direction.

    And... thing is, I think I could see sorts of substantial change in... places where we particularly invoke the idea of Energy: take a billiard ball running into another billiard ball coming from the opposite direction, and their momentums cancel each other out, and they come to a rest. It would be good to invoke Energy, in the form of having 2 bits Kinetic Energy, Heat Energy, etc.; and while neither balls substantially change, their interactions & relations, at least, arguably, do: going from motion to rest, Kinetic Energy to Heat Energy to do so, etc. So... yeah. It makes sense to call that energy Prime Matter.

    These are my somewhat inchoate thoughts; any comments?

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  43. Tony, thanks for the response. However, unfortunately on the hydrogen-and-oxygen-in-water question, I don't see how you have done anything other than recapitulated Feser's argument. While it's true that water doesn't have chemical properties anything like the chemical properties of elemental hydrogen or oxygen, that doesn't in any way imply that it doesn't literally contain individual substances which are H atoms or O atoms as parts. The properties of hydrogen are not the properties of H atoms. H atoms don't have any such properties as melting points or electrical conductivities: instead they have properties like electron orbitals or ionization states. Only when you get H atoms together in H2 molecules and get a bunch of those molecules in the same vicinity do you have hydrogen and its properties which are so different from the properties of water.

    What I'm suggesting is that we have the following chains of composition between substances:
    Water <- H2O molecules <- H and O atoms
    Hydrogen <- H2 molecules <- H atoms
    Oxygen <- O2 molecules <- O atoms
    (And this is just an example, the details could be different.)

    I have not seen any argument that substances can't be composed of other substances, and prima facie it seems to be a correct or at least plausible account.

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    1. @MattD:

      "I have not seen any argument that substances can't be composed of other substances, and prima facie it seems to be a correct or at least plausible account."

      The standard Scholastic terminology is that hydrogen and oxygen exist virtually in the water in that their forms are ``integrated'' into the form of water and ``harnessed'' by it. A free Hydrogen atom (and that such things exist is a mark of their substance-hood) is not the same as an hydrogen atom bonded with oxygen to form a water molecule, their behavior is different and such behavior can only be coherently explained by its relation to the whole. The hydrogen atom (or down to smaller levels, its constituent electron and nucleus, quarks, etc.) does not exist freely of its own in the water, but its form and causal powers are subsumed wholly and entirely by being a part of water, and retains its individuality only in a qualified sense.

      So testing your thesis will depend on what you mean by "being composed of". Water is a substance; hydrogen is a substance; water is composed of hydrogen but hydrogen does not exist in the water substantially, but virtually, which is what I understand the thesis as denying, at least on the Scholastic-type accounts I have read and insofar as I understand them.

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    2. @grodrigues: thanks for your response, but it seems as if you have not quite understood me. I'm suggesting there's a distinction between hydrogen gas (a "stuff"-like substance that comes in quantities like 1g) and H atoms (which are individual, countable substances each with 1 proton and 1 electron). Hydrogen gas is composed of H2 molecules which are composed of H atoms.

      Not only do we have a scientific theory by which this makes pretty good sense, but we can also track the locations of individual atoms (via their charge distributions) using scanning tunneling microscopes (STM). Why should we say that the form and causal powers of atoms are _wholly and entirely_ subsumed by being part of a larger substance when they pretty clearly retain certain properties (e.g. position, mass and charge distributions of central nucleus) irrespective of being included as part of something else?

      Why not say instead that a substance can be composed of other substances (which are its matter), and the composition relation may _partly_ subsume the causal powers of the composing substances (altering the way they behave when parts of the whole compared to when they are on their own, or when they are parts of some other kind of thing), but that some of the causal powers or other accidents of the composing substances remain specific to them?

      This seems to me to make WAY more sense of substantial change than the usual A-T account: instead of one substance being replaced by another (with only completely indefinite prime matter to serve as continuity), when a material substance is destroyed its matter, which really exists in it, persists as substance with readily-understandable continuity of properties (i.e. when a living thing dies, its corpse has the same shape, mass, color, etc as the organism at the moment of its death).

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  44. What do Thomists have to say about the fate of the universe? Is God supposed to destroy it or is just going to sit around slowly decaying into a cold & empty state while humans are with Jesus? Thanks

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  45. Hi guys, has anyone seen any responses to "The Unnecessary Science" by Gunther Laird or Jonathan Garner's critique of Feser's books? They both strike me as well researched critiques but I'd like to hear if there are any responses

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    1. Here we go again...

      I have seen people in the comments asking if Feser has responded to those two are not, mostly about this Laird guy, who supposedly has an amazingly powerful critique of Feser's work, although nobody of those who bring it up can explain what it it is.

      I asked in the past and I am going to ask again: who the hell are these guys and what makes their criticisms noteworthy? None of the two have any kind of bio to be found, any academic work, anything indicating what the hell they do. The only thing you can find is that they have criticized Feser.

      So, since nobody and quite likely not even their neighbors know who those guys even are, how about you give us some examples of their "well researched critique" to see if there is anything worth responding too? Some people may even suspect sockpuppetry, but these two great and world renowned thinkers probably have no need for that.

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    2. Dear Zeno. Thank you for responding. The article of Garner's was this one https://jonathandavidgarner.wordpress.com/2017/08/31/edward-fesers-bad-objections-to-the-hiddenness-argument/
      As for Laird's text what I read seemed to engage with Professor Feser's arguments more than your typical interlocutor like Chris Hallquist. I should confess I am quite a novice/sophomoric in my understanding so I apologize if this is an entry level sort of mistake on my part

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    3. To the extent that I have looked at these (well, just Laird's), these guys are basically sophomoric attempts to refute Feser. Laird is, at the least, polite and decent about his disagreement, so that a good point. But the arguments are not very worthwhile. (Yes, that's a subjective opinion, and (at this point) based on my memory from several months ago.) They just don't manage to grip onto Feser's points and positions terribly well.

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    4. For what it's worth, I'd just like to say that Gunther Laird has read Ed's philosophical works and quotes from them liberally in "The Unnecessary Science." Additionally, he bends over backwards to be as fair to Ed as possible. I won't say he gets everything right, but he's certainly no run-of-the-mill atheist. He makes a real attempt to engage, and his book is highly readable as well. He deserves a respectful hearing.

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  46. What are some major diferences between Aquinas distinction between love of friendship/love of concupiscence and Kant distinction between treating as a end/treating as a means?

    Both seems to divide atitudes between wanting the object good(proper to persons) and wanting to use the object to our good(proper to objects). Were do the two thinkers disagree?

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  47. What are the best sources in the Fathers of the Church regarding dominion and private property vs common property? And what are the best sources in the Scholastics (and later) for improvements / adjustments on what the Fathers said?

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    1. Google the question.

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    2. @Tony

      You could probably start with the Church Fathers writings mentioned in the article below. The author mentions a number of the Church Fathers writings that address private property.

      https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=2944

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    3. Thanks, Michael, that's helpful.

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  48. Ed,

    What do you think of Godel's incompleteness theorems?

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  49. Hi Ed. Can you share something of your view of Catholic Personalism especially contrasting it with the Aristotelian/Thomistic view?

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  50. I'm wanting to read through the Natural Law tradition in the near future. Are these 2 websites good places to start reading through the Natural Law tradition?

    http://nlnrac.org/archive/topic_and_subtopic

    https://oll.libertyfund.org/group/natural-law-and-enlightenment-series

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  51. I want to hear some thoughts about the natural law and the country life mindset of being free from the minutiae of legal regulation. Like for example kids riding dirt bikes on the road even if by-law 123 says one cannot do that. Or hunting game or cutting down trees etc on your property without the relevant permits that might be required by officials. To me I’m wondering whether these are immoral actions of disobedience, or justified disobedience, or whether the government shouldn’t be getting in ones business about such things in the first place. Discuss!

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    1. I'll take a stab at one aspect of the problem, but there may be others: I think that subsidiarity is a foundational natural law principle, which not only limits the extent of governmental authority to make rules, it also sets a presumption against rules, so that they can be made (when they restrict your space of choosing) only if needed for the general welfare of the society.

      However, there is no pre-determined boundary-line for which sorts of things MAY be ruled upon because it really does need a rule to protect the general welfare - except for some really basic things. So, while there should be a presumption against a rule telling me if I can cut down trees on my own land, it is notionally possible that leaving such decisions in the hands of the individual is too damaging to the general welfare, and it needs a law. And the same about neutering pets, or zoning laws, etc.

      When we have a government - like ours - that has been run (for generations) by people largely out of touch with the natural law, we should be prepared for the likely prospect that many of the laws made are too invasive and are against subsidiarity. But not all laws are, and the really troublesome point is that (at least often, if not uniformly) the lawmakers have access to a larger and better body of information than most individual citizens have, so it is often difficult or even impossible to be justifiably sure that a given law was made against the principle of subsidiarity.

      Furthermore, even if in a narrow case (because, say, you are an expert with better information than the lawmakers had) you DO actually know that a law was wrongly made, your visibly disobeying such law may cause others to scorn law in general, which might be more damaging to the general welfare than just quietly submitting to the stupid law and accepting its (unnecessary) limits.

      So, except for where the law actually demands that you sin, or in real emergencies where you have to act fast to save a life, mostly you ought to obey laws when they are of doubtful value, and (mostly) even when they are poorly made and exceed the proper bounds. This applies for the most part, until the legal regime is so bad that positive resistance is warranted to undermine or even overturn the government.

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  52. From an Aristotelian perspective, do souls have sexes? In the Metaphysics, Aristotle says that male and female are distinctions of matter, which seems to imply that souls, as forms, do not have sexes. But given that a soul is always the form of an individual animal, and an animal is necessarily of one sex or the other (as there is no Platonic sexless Animal Itself but only particular animals), can a particular soul be said to be male or female given the sex of the body of which it is the form? Especially for the human soul, since it is created directly, by God, is it correct to hold that a particular human soul has a sex given that every particular human will be either male or female? And does that soul retain its sex even when separated from the body, similar to how it retains its memory and certain other things from when it was embodied?

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    1. I am not by any means confident of how Aristotle deals with this, but it seems to me that the form is sexless in the specific sense, only, that it is not (by form) DETERMINED to be male or female - but it IS "sexed" in the sense that the nature requires and implies that it be one of the sexes. The determination then comes from the body, just as other attributes derive from the body, including size, degree of intelligence, sense acuity, and so on.

      However, as soon as you have a soul and body union, in which the body IS determinate, the soul is THEN determinated to be the soul of a person of a specific sex, and normally that event is final. It is not like you could take the soul out of a female body and plop it into a male body - the soul has been determined by the body. (Really, this is an argument against taking souls out of bodies and plopping them in other bodies in general, I think.) It is, by that, the soul of a specific person, not a "generic" soul that just happens to inhabit a blob of matter for a while. So it naturally "retains its sex" after death, because it is (always) the soul ordinated toward one specific body.

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    2. Tony is right. A person particular sex, just like height or heritage is given by the body but it is a characteristic of the whole person, for the body and the soul are a unity.

      And i can be mistaken but it seems to me that if souls had sexes them men and women would not be from the same species, for the soul(form) defines the species.

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  54. Miguel CervantesMay 13, 2022 at 6:53 AM

    Have been reading Richard Hooker’s “Laws of Ecclesiastical Politie” (1593). Very revealing. Russell Kirk wrote that Burke was an adept of Hooker’s, but that’s a vast understatement; Burke regurgitates, but in superficial fashion, the Hooker’s ideology. Hooker; for any orthodox Christian, is a troubling revelation of the core of conservative ideology.

    Hooker rejects human rights based on nature, as Burke (rights are determined by “the species”) and Roger Scruton would do. For Hooker, there are no human rights before social recognition of them (Scruton denied even personhood before social recognition). Hooker explained the naturalist and irreligious nature of socially-determined truth: ““The generall and perpetuall voyce of men is as the sentence of God himself… . For that which all men have at all times learned, nature her selfe must needes have taught; and God being the author of nature, her voyce is but his instrument”. What’s the problem with this?: original sin, which means human society is NOT infallibly determined to express truth. Hooker admits natural law in theory, but defines it as mere recognition of what society has developed over time. But there is nothing less religious than ignoring original sin and divinising society.

    Hooker denies Church as an institution in itself; the visible Church is merely civil society at prayer. Hence Burke’s notion that a religion established by civil society helps increase respect civil society by providing an aura of religiosity around it. For Scruton, religion is primarily a mechanism for civil society’s group solidarity and self-defence. By making civil society itself religion, it becomes an end in itself, refusing to be determined by anything outside itself. This was evident in James I (relying on Hooker) rejecting any principle, whether natural law, or a Church outside that controlled by himself, that could result in his deposition, whatever he did.
    Hooker invented the doctrine that civil society is an immortal being. This is consistent with his belief that it is the Church. Finally, Hooker exhibits that latitudinarianism, or doctrinal indifference, that would characterise Burke (for Scruton, religious doctrines were unprovable and ultimately futile). For Hooker, every inhabitant of England’s civil society was a member of its Church (whether Anglican, Calvinist or Catholic) regardless of doctrinal differences; The important thing was a sloganistic unity and, above all, unquestioning subjection to civil society’s political establishment. When James I, in the Oath of Allegiance, demanded that his subjects declare rejection of political absolutism to be a heresy, he was being consistent. This is the only doctrine Hooker and his successors really believe in. Their religion is civil society itself. Perhaps extreme forms of conservatism like this will be declared a heresy by the Church in the future.

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    1. English CatholicMay 13, 2022 at 4:24 PM

      I have some respect for Burke, and the greatest of admiration for Scruton. He helped me escape the despairing and drooling insanity of modern thought, and helped me see my way to conversion to Catholicism. So I don't like criticising them.

      But there's no doubt they're both seriously flawed thinkers for traditional Catholics, and/or Aristotelian-Thomists. It's troubling how few realise this. I think we Anglos, in particular, are often blinded to this, since even our "conservatism" is explicitly liberal.

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/ambiguous-conservative.html

      http://www.lmschairman.org/2020/01/some-worries-about-roger-scruton.html

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    2. Conservatism seems to fit beter with some pagan thinkers like Aristotle and Cicero that with any of the abrahamical faiths. As mentioned by Miguel, rejection of original sin*, religious indiference, a sorta of darwinistic view of ethics, a separation between the realm of religion and the real of rationality and truth etc. The pagans would be mostly fine with that.

      *yes, muslims and jews reject it too, but they do grant that a society cant go very far if there is no revelation

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    3. Conservatism takes the prize for irrationalism.

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    4. Yeah, the notion that "conservatism" consists in what Burke held, or Hooker for that matter, is just plain wrong, and one cannot fault conservatism for their goofy errors. It is, for one thing, much, much older than they. But more importantly, Burke simply fails to capture the proper underlying basis for conservatism, which implies limits and boundaries to following tradition.

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    5. I wonder, Miguel, now that Scruton, Burke, Russell Kirk and Hooker are off the safe reading list for Christians, who's left when it comes to truly influential conservative theorists?

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    6. Miguel doesn't think that conservatism is any good, so why would he think there is a "safe" and influential conservative?

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    7. Miguel CervantesMay 14, 2022 at 10:55 PM

      There's a lot of confusion about what exactly a conservative is, above all when we refer to English-speaking writers. The core of conservatism: evolutionist traditionalism, allergy to dogma, absence of original sin when thinking of political society, which is therefore divinised in a kind of naturalism that is by the same token utterly unnatural, irrationalism in rejecting a priori political theorising and natural law itself - all these things are at the heart of the writers mentioned above.

      There are, however, excellent English authors who (though sometimes called conservatives) reject all these core conservative positions. Christopher Dawson and G.K. Chesterton come to mind. There are others. Then there are the great Catholic authors who took up and tore to pieces the proto-conservative position the moment it emerged: Bellarmine and Suarez. Their positions are those of Thomism applied to modern ideological attack.

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  55. Is there such a thing as a Natural Law Moral Argument for God's existence; or, does the Moral Argument only work with a Divine Command approach?
    From what I remember reading, I don't recall any of the historically famous Natural Law proponents giving Moral Arguments for God's existence.

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    1. I remember Ed talking about it before: since there is intrinsic teleology on natural law it seems like a atheist could be fine with it. Unless we dodged the question of how teleology is possible, but them it turns into another argument.

      But i wonder if that is the case since i read a article of his on ethics and finded the part when he derived the natural obligation to behave well as the weaker part of his argumentation.

      Can we even talk of a obligation when there are not two persons involved? To who i really would own the duty to be good in a atheistic aristotelian cosmos? Like Nietzsche said*, a obligation seems like a sort of debt, and we can't have debt unless there is another person involved.

      *even if his theory of ethics origin just embarrasses

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  56. Apologies for what may seem like a basic question. But how do we explain or defend the teleological or natural law view of sex, in response to those who say why is it licit then for an infertile couple to have sex when they can't have children?

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    1. My apology for any confusion re the signature.

      I always intend to use my name or initials here to leave comments; and not the damn Google email account name based on my deer camp which shows up as a default. In my own defense, I even did this when I had angry socialists threatening to show up on my door step. (I invited them to try) But my name is not "N.C.".

      Sorry again.

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    2. What the infertile couple does is by nature ordered to producing babies, it just so happens that a bodily defect impedes the fulfillment of this ordering, they are open to life as they can. Other sorts of sexual acts are by nature not capable of producing babies, so there is awaysa middle finger to life there.

      It is like saying that a babie qnd a pig are the same because they have similar levels of inteligence. Look, they are not equal at all, unless you only look at acidents and forget substances(which is possible on this nominalist place we live).

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    3. Imagine, as a hypothetical, someone gets old and due to some neurological or physiological deterioration, they always say the opposite of what they intend to convey. They are trying to say the truth, but a falsehood keeps coming out. Is it okay for that person to speak? Sure (barring any prudential concerns of course), they aren't lying. They don't intend to convey a falsehood as if its true, but their ability to convey the truth is thwarted due to some neurological or physiological breakdown as they get old. (I have no idea if there really is any kind of disorder that would do this. It's just a hypothetical.)

      However, someone who intends to convey falsehoods as if they are true is lying and their act is illicit. It is not okay to do that.

      Both have something wrong with them, but clearly we can distinguish the one who is trying to complete the end to which the faculty of communication is for but a disorder stops them, and the one who isn't even trying to complete the end, but actively trying to thwart the end.

      The question is: Are you using your faculties to achieve the end to which it is for, even if the end isn't achieved (for whatever reason)? If so, it's generally okay. If not, then its not okay.

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  57. There are only men and women. There are no such beings as homosexuals, trannies etc.

    https://www.wmbriggs.com/post/21962/

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  58. This is a the best biography of St Thomas Aquinas ever written. It is a scholarly, well-written and delightful book, Dr. Prudlo is Director of the Catholic Studies Center at the University of Tulsa.
    https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Aquinas-Historical-Theological-Environmental/dp/0809153866

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  59. May 13, 2022 at 10:46 AM

    Apologies for what may seem like a basic question. But how do we explain or defend the teleological or natural law view of sex, in response to those who say why is it licit then for an infertile couple to have sex when they can't have children?


    You actually have two separate questions (or issues) implied there, but at core you are asking one: "Why is it not an abuse of human sexual nature for a male and female to have conjugal relations when there is some organic or other defect that impairs conception?"

    And the moment you ask it that way, the answer becomes self-evident.





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  60. Unrelated:-
    "“Go play in traffic” (or a more vulgar and aggressive equivalent)"
    Professor Feser's version of "F off" made my day lol.

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  61. I don't know if anyone reads down this far. But - can anyone recommend a good overview of the differences between Aquinas and Calvin on man's natural and supernatural ends? I was recently listening to a Christ the Center podcast on Van Til, Aquinas and the natural knowledge of God which was very interesting but raised a lot of questions in my mind.

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    1. Dr. Feser recent posts on David Hart new book would be interesting on getting the thomistic view*. As far as i know, Calvin negated the grace-nature distinction, so getting the distinction would help.

      *notice that if it is St. Thomas view is controversial

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  62. It sure looks like Dr Feser is having fun in the fifth circle... 🤓

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  63. Is DDS (doctrine of divine simplicity) mentioned in the New Testament or was it first affirmed, among Christians, by the Church Fathers (Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Augustine, etc.). Is there any evidence from the Bible that the Apostle's affirmed DDS?

    Would these passages of Scripture be evidence that the Apostles affirmed DDS?

    Acts 17:22-28
    Colossians 1:15-17
    Revelations 10:5-6 (it's mentioned in verse 6, read verse 5 so that you can get the context)

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    1. Sacred Scripture is quite vague on the divine atributes, our apostles and their companions were not philosophers and neither the persons that were the targets of the sacred books and letters.

      See for instance God timelessness, is it affirmed or denied? It seems to me that neither..

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  65. I don’t think you’re going to get very far trying to find Divine Simplicity in the Scriptures. Hardly any lay person would be able to understand the concept so God would probably not try to include such a statement in scripture in such a way that we either understand Divine Simplicity or we are confused by God’s message. So, I’d expect rather to see passages consistent with the Doctrine, or would suggest His Simplicity when carried through fully.

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  67. Concurrentism is incoherent and collapses into either occasionalism or mere conservationism.

    If a creature cannot operate apart from a concurrent motion from God, then likewise the creature cannot *cooperate* with God of its own capacity and initiative. Then God will be required to impart motion for the creature's co-operative, secondary causation again. And then the problem emerges once again and forms a regress.

    But if on the other hand a creature can co-operate with the divine action to bring about real secondary causation, then the creature already has an intrinsic capacity for initiative, for operating on its own (provided that its existence and its powers are actualized by God at every moment - as mere conservationists maintain). And thus concurrentism is not needed.

    To put it differently, for a visualization: Creature C attempts to perform action A, but cannot do so unless G (God) concurrently causes A. If God is the sole cause of A, however, then C did not really act, it was just G that acted. So to avoid occasionalism, A must be constituted by A1 - an action by C - and A2 - an action by G. However, given the concurrentist argument, C wouldn't be able to perform A1 either. A1 would need a further concurrent act by G, and so on and on, in a vicious regress unless we accept either occasionalism or mere conservationism.

    Any thoughts or responses.

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    1. A free creature that has been put in motion by another can either "go along with" that motion by not interfering, or can interject by interfering with the motion so given it, by impeding or resisting the motion.

      Since being is good and moral evil is, properly, defect rather than being, when a man has been set in motion by God toward the due good, his "action" to interfere with the motion given is not act but defect, a lack of being, for it is a defection from the actuality that it the end toward which he was moved. This interference is his OWN "activity", but what is properly "his own" about it is, precisely, its defectiveness. Thus saying the man "has the 'power' to commit the sin" is the slightly obscuring way of saying "man could bring about his own failure to reach the due good by DEFECTING from it by his own moral defect of malice." This is his own "action" but its object is not act(uality) but defect. This is that wherein his free will is free, he can choose to depart from the path to good on which he was set.

      The alternative was to not resist the motion given him. This is not properly an act distinct from the the actualization of the good which just is the motion toward the good which was given him. It is a "being of reason" in that we can refer to it AS IF it were distinct from the act given to him, but it is PROPERLY just not resisting, which is not itself an act. If, and only if, the man considers the motion given him under the light of "shall I resist this motion or not" and comes to a distinct choice to not resist, will he need grace to make that choice well, but that's because that choice is in fact a new real thing distinct from the motion toward the good already in train. (E.G. it takes time to occur, and in some cases the original motion will have been achieved in the destination good already, so not all such motions imply, of necessity, this distinct act of choice. And no such motions imply an infinite number of ancillary choices to "not resist" DURING the movement.) Thus there is no necessity of an infinite regress, and no necessity for him to be the foundational cause of his motion toward the good.

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    2. Not everything needs to be directly moved by God. Secondary causation does operate, and things within the natural world move each other, but God imparts motion to the natural world in general in some way. So a free person’s will is not moved by God directly, but by his intellect, and his intellect by thoughts, and so on. Now we need an Unmoved Mover at a certain point in the chain, but secondary causes do exist and do contribute their own type of power to the equation. And, although there is a more diminished sense of free will at play here, because the will needs help in its operation, it’s not as if the will does not operate. And since the will operates, choice has happened. It needs help in so creating an act of choice, but it creates none the less.

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  68. If man has a twofold end, one natural and one supernatural, the natural for contemplation of God as he is capable of achieving in this life and a practice of the cardinal virtues as he is capable of in this life, the supernatural for the beatific vision, and if these are embodied in two distinct desires in man, one natural and one supernatural, when is the supernatural desire given, and to whom? Does everyone have it? Is everyone given it from birth? Or is it given only to a select few, such as those who are baptized, or some such? Thank you.

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    1. I believe that Prof. Feser did address some of this in recent posts, including this one:
      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2022/03/harts-post-christian-pantheism.html

      Let me add my own thoughts (well, mostly St. Thomas's, so far as I understand him). Man doesn't have two utterly distinct ends (natural and supernatural) as if they were simple two ends with no relation or subordination between them. I would put it, rather, that man has one basic end, to fulfill his faculties: since his highest and most distinctive faculties are those of the rational - the apprehensive faculty of intellect and the appetitive faculty of will, which is the intellectual appetite - his highest and most distinctive end is to know the true & good, and to love the good as known. Because man desires to know things by (especially) knowing their causes, man's highest form of knowing is in knowing the highest and most complete of causes, i.e. the most perfect good - i.e. that being which is the universal knowable and the universal good, God. This knowing can be achieved in this life at the level of achievement possible to the faculties without special aid, i.e. according as the faculties operate naturally, and this level of achievement is natural to man's powers. The knowing can also be elevated to a higher mode of knowing God, possible only with supernatural assistance to his soul, which knowing is (alone) so perfective of his faculties that no further attainment could be desired, i.e. an attainment of their ends which suffices for the man to rest in that knowing and loving, as in surfeit. And that this manner of knowing and loving The Universal Good is the only sort of knowing and loving that COULD suffice to make the faculties rest pertains to all men, not just some. Further, God desires that all men come to this attainment of their end, for it is true of all men that if they will turn to God [for such aid], God will turn to them and give that aid. ("This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty.") But since not all will turn to God, not all will successfully come to their final end.

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  69. Hi Ed,

    I'd like a straight answer from you on three questions.

    1. Elizabeth Anscombe is famous for her argument against the compatibility of physical determinism with human freedom: "My actions are mostly physical movements; if these physical movements are physically predetermined by processes which I do not control, then my freedom is perfectly illusory." What is wrong with an incompatibilist reasoning in a similar fashion, "If my actions are predetermined by God's act of will (as the Author of my being and of the course of my life), which of course I do not control, then surely my freedom is perfectly illusory"? Yes, I am well aware that in the latter case, the causality is "vertical" as opposed to "horizontal" and that God is not merely one causal agent among many. But control is control, and freedom means not being controlled when you make a choice informed by reason. At the very most, the author analogy (which you often appeal to in your writings) would establish only that each of us is free vis-a-vis the other human beings in God's great cosmic drama. However, it would not establish that we are free vis-a-vis God. So in the case of a human whose final act of will on Earth is an act of rebellion against God, it seems there's no way his/her action can be legitimately described as free. Or is there? (For that matter, the characters in a story don't love or hate the author, as they don't know the author.)

    2. How can it make sense to describe an Aristotelian form as performing an action of any sort - i.e. being the efficient cause of some effect - especially when it is the form of a body? For if the form of an F is the F-ness of that F, then the form of a human (say) is simply his/her human-ness. Does it make any sense to say, "Tom's human-ness decided to walk to work?" Should we not rather say that Tom decided?

    3. In your view, is the human intellect or will ever the efficient (as opposed to formal or final) cause of a physical movement? The reason why I ask is that if the proximate efficient causes of my bodily movements are always movements of other bodies acting upon my body, then there really is no sense in which my actions can ebb called free. But if some of my bodily movements have as their proximate cause an immaterial act of will, Thomists owe us an explanation of why this doesn't contravene the laws of physics - in particular, Schrodinger's wave equation, which is entirely deterministic. (See Sabine Hossenfelder's essays for more details.) So far, no explanation has been forthcoming. Cheers.

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    1. @Vincent Torley,

      1. "they don't know the author"

      Unless the author comes into the story.

      2. What's the big deal? Equivocation allows a person to be addressed with the same word that points to his essence.

      3. A wave function that satisfies Schrodinger's wave equation is not unique. Furthermore, all of the measurements, all of which must be finite, of every quantum experiment ever done, are finite subsequences of an infinite, unbiased random number and they are distributed randomly in an unbiased way in the infinite random sequence, as are all of the variations that fall within the measurement uncertainties of those measurements ... and there are infinitely more random ways to express the finite strings we measure than there are ordered finite ways to express the measurements in terms of their parameters. And yet, an infinite random number is a mere image of God. You ought to at least understand that you can't put down a finite rule for an infinite unbiased random number ... which means that since the human mind understands order, not disorder, that you can't understand or predict the sequence of the random number from the finite part of it that you know.

      Much less can you understand God, or what He can do or create, since God is not limited by a mere image of Him.

      If you insist that you can understand, it means that you can't understand.

      I suggest that you read Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's, non technical, "The Spirit of the Liturgy" to get an understanding of why all this means that we rightly worship God as Love.

      Tom Cohoe

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