Monday, June 27, 2022

Aristotle on the middle class

On CNN the other day, liberal commentator Van Jones complained that the Democrats are “becoming a party of the very high and the very low” ends of the economic spectrum, and do not appeal to those in the vast middle, including the working class.  He notes that the “very well-educated and very well-off” segment of the party talks in a way that sounds “bizarre” to ordinary people, citing as examples the use of terms like “Latinx” and “BIPOC.”  He could easily have added others, such as “cisgender,” “whiteness,” “intersectionality,” “heteronormativity,” “the carceral state,” and on and on.  To the average person, the commentators and activists who use such jargon – insistently, humorlessly, and as if everyone does or ought to agree – sound like cult members in need of deprogramming, and certainly of electoral defeat.  (I would also note that having a college degree and being facile with trendy political theory does not suffice to make one “very well-educated,” but let that pass.)

Sunday, June 19, 2022

What is conscience and when should we follow it?

I plan to post some unpublished material that’s been accumulating over the years, over at my main website.  First up is a lecture on the theme “What is Conscience and When Should We Follow It?” which I’ve given a couple of times but has never seen print.  Is conscience a kind of emotion?  A kind of perceptual faculty or “moral sense”?  An operation of the intellect?  Or some sui generis faculty?  When are we obligated to follow conscience?  What is a lax conscience?  A scrupulous conscience?  A doubtful conscience?  What does the Catholic Church teach about these matters?  These issues and related ones are addressed in the talk.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Economic and linguistic inflation

F. A. Hayek’s classic paper “The Use of Knowledge in Society” famously argued that prices generated in a market economy function to transmit information that economic actors could not otherwise gather or make efficient use of.  For example, the price of an orange will reflect a wide variety of factors – an increase in demand for orange juice in one part of the country, a smaller orange crop than usual in another part, changes in transportation costs, and so on – that no one person has knowledge of.  Individual economic actors need only adjust their behavior in light of price changes (economizing, investing in an orange juice company, or whatever their particular circumstances make rational) in order to ensure that resources are used efficiently, without any central planner having to direct them.

Friday, June 10, 2022

The New Apologetics

I contributed an essay on “New Challenges to Natural Theology” to Matthew Nelson’s new Word on Fire anthology The New Apologetics.  It’s got a large and excellent lineup of philosophers, theologians, and others.  You can find the table of contents and other information about the book here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

COMING SOON: All One in Christ

My new book All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory will be out this August from Ignatius Press.  Some information about the book, including advance reviews, can be found at the Amazon link.  Here’s the table of contents:

1. Church Teaching against Racism

2. Late Scholastics and Early Modern Popes against Slavery

3. The Rights and Duties of Nations and Immigrants

4. What is Critical Race Theory?

5. Philosophical Problems with Critical Race Theory

6. Social Scientific Objections to Critical Race Theory

7. Catholicism versus Critical Race Theory

Monday, June 6, 2022

Anti-reductionism in Nyāya-Vaiśesika atomism

Atomism takes all material objects to be composed of basic particles that are not themselves breakable into further components.  In Western philosophy, the idea goes back to the Pre-Socratics Leucippus and Democritus, and was revived in the early modern period by thinkers like Pierre Gassendi.  The general spirit of atomism survived in schools of thought that abandoned the idea that there is a level of strictly unbreakable particles, such as Boyle and Locke’s corpuscularianism.  Its present-day successor is physicalism, but here too there have been further modifications to the basic ancient idea.  For example, non-reductive brands of physicalism allow that there are facts about at least some everyday objects that cannot be captured in a description of micro-level particles.