Saturday, March 18, 2023

How to define “wokeness”

A common talking point among the woke is the claim that “woke” is just a term of abuse that has no clear meaning.  Whether many of them really believe this or are just obfuscating is not clear, but in any event it isn’t true.  I would suggest that what critics of wokeness have in mind is pretty obviously captured in the following definition: Wokeness is a paranoid delusional hyper-egalitarian mindset that tends to see oppression and injustice where they do not exist or greatly to exaggerate them where they do exist.

Friday, March 10, 2023

This month at First Things

My review of Thomas Ward’s superb new book Ordered by Love: An Introduction to John Duns Scotus appears in the current issue of First Things.  I was recently interviewed by Mark Bauerlein for the First Things podcast about my book All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Naturalism versus Katz’s Platonism

Naturalism holds that there is nothing more to reality than the world of concrete entities causally related to one another within space and time.  Since this is the realm studied by the natural sciences (such as physics, chemistry, and biology), naturalism can also be characterized as the view that the subject matter of natural science is all that there is.  Naturalism thus denies the existence of God, of angelic intellects, of immaterial souls (whether conceived of along the lines of Descartes’ res cogitans or in some other way), and of Platonic Forms and other abstract objects. 

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Open thread combox

Here’s the latest open thread, by popular demand.  Actually, it was one guy, but I’ll bet there at least twice as many as that who are interested.  From quantum logic to Quantumania, MacArthur at Inchon to Thomas Pynchon, Muay Thai to Jamiroquai, everything’s on topic.  Just keep it civil and classy.  Earlier open threads archived here.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Catholicism, CRT, and the spirit of the age

Recently I was interviewed by the Catholic Herald’s Katherine Bennett about Critical Race Theory and the need for Catholics not to let themselves be intimidated by the progressive spirit of the age.  You can watch the interview at YouTube.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Pope Francis contra life imprisonment

The white supremacist Buffalo shooter who murdered ten people has been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.  According to scripture, natural law theory, and traditional Catholic moral theology alike, he is worthy of death.  It follows that this lesser penalty can hardly be unjust.  However, it seems that Pope Francis would disapprove of it.  For he has on many occasions condemned this sort of punishment as on a par with the death penalty, which he has also famously condemned.  I discussed this neglected but problematic aspect of the pope’s teaching in a Catholic World Report article originally published in 2019, and he has since then made further statements along the same lines.  Current events make the topic worth revisiting.

Friday, February 10, 2023

The Faith Once for All Delivered

Coming soon, the important new anthology The Faith Once for All Delivered: Doctrinal Authority in Catholic Theology, edited by Fr. Kevin Flannery.  Contributors include Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke (Foreword and Introduction), C. C. Pecknold, Christopher J. Malloy, Thomas Heinrich Stark, Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., John M. Rist, Edward Feser, Eduardo Echeverria, Kevin L. Flannery, SJ, Robert Dodaro, OSA, John Finnis, Guy Mansini, OSB, and Robert Cardinal Sarah (Afterword).  My essay for the volume is on the topic “Magisterium: The Teaching Authority of the Church.”

Talking about All One in Christ

The latest on my book All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory:  Recently I was interviewed for the EDIFY Podcast on the topic “The Truth about Critical Race Theory.”  You can listen to the interview here.  I was also interviewed about the book by Deal Hudson for the Church and Culture radio show.  You can listen to the episode here.  Other reviews of and interviews about All One in Christ can be found herehereherehere, and here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

An anonymous saint?

When we think of saints, we often associate them with mighty spiritual feats – dramatic martyrdoms, the production of works of great theological learning or spiritual insight, the founding of religious orders or vast charitable enterprises, and so on.  But saintliness, like the still small voice heard by Elijah, can manifest itself in subtler ways.  An illustration is provided by the life of Fr. Ed Dowling, SJ, the subject of Dawn Eden Goldstein’s fine new book Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.’s Spiritual Sponsor

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Avicenna on non-contradiction

We’ve been talking about the law of non-contradiction (LNC), which says that the statements p and not-p cannot both be true.  (In symbolic notation: ~ (p • ~p) )  We briefly noted Aristotle’s view that skepticism about LNC cannot be made a coherent position.  Let’s now consider a famous remark on the subject by the Islamic philosopher Avicenna or Ibn Sina (c. 970-1037).  In The Metaphysics of the Healing, he says of such a skeptic:

As for the obstinate, he must be plunged into fire, since fire and non-fire are identical.  Let him be beaten, since suffering and not suffering are the same.  Let him be deprived of food and drink, since eating and drinking are identical to abstaining. (Quoted in the SEP article “Contradiction”)

Friday, January 27, 2023

Quantum mechanics and the laws of thought

It isn’t news that much pop philosophy nonsense is peddled in the name of quantum mechanics.  Perhaps the best-known example is the claim that quantum mechanics refutes one or more of the traditional “laws of thought.”  The arguments are fallacious, but stubbornly persistent. 

The laws of thought are three:

1. The law of non-contradiction (LNC), which states that the statements p and not-p cannot both be true.  In symbolic notation: ~ (p • ~p)

2. The law of identity, which says that everything is identical with itself.  In symbolic notation, a = a

3. The law of excluded middle (LEM), which states that either p or not-p is true.  In symbolic notation: p V ~p

Friday, January 20, 2023

Cartwright on theory and experiment in science

Nancy Cartwright’s A Philosopher Looks at Science is a new treatment of some of the longstanding themes of her work.  It is written in her characteristically agreeable style and full of insights.  The book is devoted to criticizing three widespread but erroneous assumptions about science: that science is essentially just theory plus experiment; that in some sense everything science tells us is reducible to physics; and that science reveals that everything that happens, including human action, is determined by the laws of physics.  In this post I’ll discuss what she says about the first of these claims, which is the subject of the first and longest chapter in the book.  I may devote a later post to the other claims.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Benedict XVI, Cardinal Pell, and criticism of Pope Francis

In the wake of the deaths of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Cardinal George Pell, it has emerged that each of them raised serious criticisms of aspects of Pope Francis’s teaching and governance of the Church.  How might the pope respond to these criticisms?  As I have explained elsewhere, the Church explicitly teaches that even popes can under certain circumstances respectfully be criticized by the faithful.  Moreover, Pope Francis himself has explicitly said on several occasions that he welcomes criticism.  It seems clear that the criticisms raised by Benedict and Pell are precisely the kind that the pope should take the most seriously, given the teaching of the Church and his own views about the value of criticism.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

More about All One in Christ

The latest on my book All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory: I was interviewed about the book by Carl Olson on the Ignatius Press Podcast.  I was interviewed by Cy Kellett on Catholic Answers Focus.  I was interviewed by Ken Huck on the Meet the Author radio program.  Reviewing the book at Catholic World Report, Gregory Sullivan writes: “Among its many virtues, All One in Christ is a work of genuine argumentation.  Meticulous and temperate in stating the case he is critiquing, Feser dismantles CRT with his characteristic rigor.”  The Spectator included the book on its list of the best books of 2022.  The book is available in German translation, and was reviewed favorably by Sebastian Ostritsch in Die Tagespost.  Other reviews of and interviews about All One in Christ can be found hereherehere, and here.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Sunday, January 1, 2023

The wages of gin

My review of Jane Peyton’s The Philosophy of Gin appears in the Christmas 2022 issue of The Lamp magazine.