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.


  1. I've always been a little leery of the Theology of the Body, but I've ordered Fr. Petri's book which purportes to show a strong Thomistic foundation. So we will see. Also, the PWA episode with Dr. McNamara was interesting.

    I wonder if there is that necessity, nowadays, to go into the subjective to pull modern "psychological man" (reference to Carl Trueman's work) back into objectivity.

    Has there been some critical engagement with TOB by a classical thomist who works from within the Church? Fr. Petri is the Dean at the Dominican House of Studies, so has there been many thomists who have gone in on TOB? I've heard some of the friars speak well of it. But I find the Dominicans do a both/and approach. They have their classical natural law arguments around sexuality, but they definitely throw in some TOB lines of reasoning.

    I'd love to see a debate (written or live) on this between someone like Dr. Feser and someone who is a big proponent but within the Thomist camp, like McNamara or Fr. Petri.

    1. Here's my opinion - and I am happy to be corrected. I'll only talk about the unity/procreation link.

      I don't find it [TOB] compelling on this issue. The claim seems to be that you can only have a self-gift if unity and procreation are always tied with each other. Ok? Just a tenuous claim at best.

      It looks to be a reading of Genesis that's designed to cater to the people who already accept the premises. Think about it like this: you have the rational arguments and once you accept those you need a way to explain what they mean on a practical level intertwined with scripture. Hence, TOB fills this role.

      The problem is twofold (at least): (1) I am not so convinced that you can argue demonstrably that unity and procreation are indissolubly linked. If you can't then TOB has almost no demonstrative power. (2) I am not so sure that this reading of Genesis works at all.

      My own sympathies are with the Platonists. It seems to me that we can just go to Phaedrus and argue that constraint with the beloved is a proper way to live. Now it would be an extra leap to say that this has to be cashed out in terms of an indissoluble link between procreation and unity, but maybe that's where Catholics just have to trust Paul VI's judgment. In short, Plato's account of virtuous eros in Phaedrus + Humane Vitae is sufficient for me rather than going through the hoops with TOB and natural law arguments.

      Now one can obviously respond with a lot here..

      Interestingly, I do know of some others who are experimenting with different styles of argumentation. Joshua Hochschild is giving a talk in late March at the University of Georgia on Plato's Theology of the Body. He seems to think that you can get a Catholic TOB out of Symposium, Lysis, and Phaedrus. I think so too. The talk will be on the Thomistic Institute Soundcloud in a few months.

      What does this mean dialectically? I really don't know. This is not an easy topic.

      But again, happy to be corrected on any of this.

    2. Kyle, my first run-in with TOB wasn't fantastic, and it set my radar off as it being "maybe a bit of a problem". Not harshly or anything, but...questions pop up.

      My main concern, (and this parallel's Jack's comment) is that it is formally gibberish to speak of there being two separate "primary" ends of marriage (and of the conjugal act). You can have one primary and a secondary, for example. But no act has two primary ends. And given that there are any number of magisterial documents before JPII that quite clearly speak of children as the primary end, it's not all that easy to squeeze unity in there and demonstrate that it falls within the circle whose name is "primary end". And even if you could, that still does nothing to solve the metaphysical problem of two distinct primary ends.

      That said, I don't think that's the end of the story, either. It is logically possible, for example, for fecundity and unity to each be aspects of some one singular that is the true "primary end of the conjugal act" in its fullest sense, so that older sayings like "procreation is the primary end of the act" were true, but incomplete in an important way.

      The problem, still, is that just pointing out some logical possibility that MIGHT be a solution doesn't actually make it true as the solution. And, it would be a little odd to be confident that there is some one base reality of which fecundity and unity are distinct aspects, without anyone being able to POINT to it, or to name it. The glib answer would be that it is "love", but that's facile and empty for argument purposes, because we cannot cash it out in those terms. The closest we can come right now, I think, would run through a (probably circular) thesis that true love must necessarily entail both fecundity and unity, and that too is not an easy sell. (What about angels, for example?)

      For my money, stepping aside from TOB, I would pursue a thesis that the conjugal love that God designed us for is one that almost explicitly puts the couple open to God's choice for or not for a creative event, each distinct time, so that their conjugal act of love is itself entwined with God's will about the individual event. I am not sure how to play this out, either, but to me it feels promising.

    3. Thanks Tony and Jack for your comments. If you have time, tell me what you think of Fr. Petri's presentation here:

    4. @Kyle

      I took a look at the first half in which Fr. Petri lays out the basics. I'll admit, I do agree a lot with ToB. Namely, it does seem like sex is a mutual gift of the whole self striving toward some sort of recognition.

      Interestingly, I think this can be proven via a phenomenological account of sex from a purely secular standpoint. Take a look for instance at Sartre's sections on sex in Being and Nothingness and Roger Scruton's little essay on phil of sex in his "Intelligent Guide to Philosophy."

      That being said, I simply do not follow how this in any way justifies the teleology. I think there are two problems at play. First, the link between unity and procreation is still unjustified. Second, tying that into eternal damnation is also underpinning a lot of what's going on.

      Fr. Petri attempts to make a move via analogy from God's creative act to the creative act in sex. I don't see the point of this other than some sort of poetic resemblance. What's the argument here? I just can't reconstruct anything. Is it something along the lines of this:

      1). There is an analogy between Creation and sex?
      2). Normative principle?
      C: Sex must always involve some aspect of creation?

      I don't see any way that this could get you to (i) the teleological link, and (ii) a condemnation of people to eternal torture for using a condom.

      It looks like ToB is still parasitic on arguments for the moral badness of contraception, and at rock bottom some sort of justification for the telos talk. And it's here where, like I briefly mentioned above, don't think there are good arguments.

      What's intriguing to me is the epistemic certainty involved. It seems that in such an issue where human relations, children, and eternal salvation are at stake we should have some sort of solid rational grounding for the claims. But I'm not seeing it.

  2. So, at some point, when that periodical's exclusivity embargo, which is probably preventing you from revealing your martini formula opinions here, lapses; drop a couple of lines.

    Take a deserved break from the dismal task of dealing with sourpuss Frankie and his band of simpering, hand fluttering, "dignity"-mongers for a few, and give your opinion on something really meaningful to grown men.

    [I don't know how you even manage to deal civilly with those people. If purgatory really exists, I don't reckon you will have to spend much time there.]

  3. How does a layman have any confidence in whatever philosophical evaluations he makes when, on any given topic, there are dozens of professionals who study it for a living and will disagree with him? "This is what the Church is for" -- deciding on the truth of Catholicism relies on a whole chain of judgments, each of which this worry applies to.

    1. Most do not enter the Church by way of a rational evaluation, so to most this would not be a problem. But if you are like me and need the evaluation to begin the catholic life, them lets answer:

      A good start is looking at how well the average philosopher understands of discussions that envolve more than what is discussed by other specialists of his tiny area of specialization. Read for instance Ed posts on Rosenberg or Churchland and have fun. If you stopped to study before even early modern philosophy you know that these men are pathetically ignorant of a lot of important discussion on dualism. If you also read the greeks and medievals, oh boy!

      Really, if you read well the greeks and medievals you know how narrow is the knowledge of the average philosopher. Kant, for instance, was stuck on his day at taking either rationalists or empiricists premises, he used some of it to develop his view, and the philosopher today seems to have a similar situation: only really knows what he can find on the academia.

      And this only giving attention to the specialization issue on the Academy. How free the average philosopher is to defend certain "ancient" points of view like traditional sexual morality? Is not the society culture, the internal academic culture, politics etc going against that?

      Really, just study and know that there are academics defending anything. Just bother to know your oponents and judge for yourself if they deserve to cause doubt or not.

    2. Because I think most professionals are quack pots who needs a slew of arguments to convince them the world is or is not made of a mind (WHAT?), or have been convinced we can’t really know causes exist, or that the principle of noncontradiction is false. Thomists like Jacques Maritain point out that common sense often is in better touch with reality even though it is vague. Sometimes you can precisely and rigorously fool yourself.

    3. I think it is better to think of philosophy as improving the quality of our philosophical judgements, rather than as providing us a method by which to make the absolutely best philosophical judgements. Non-philosophical people, and ourselves before we became philosophical, hold or held many opinions that cannot stand up to elementary scrutiny (as Socrates showed). Subjecting those opinions to philosophical scrutiny won't result in absolutely unassailable opinions, but should result in more reasonable opinions than the prior ones. This is a lifelong process, along which we gain wisdom as our opinions are purified in the fire of philosophical scrutiny.

    4. Confessions and Augustine's dialogues seem to me to be an answer to this. Take a look at them (again if you already have)... BUT this time think only one thing: How is Augustine answering this very question? / What is the dialectic between reason and faith ?

  4. Had anyone done much looking into the recent trend of trying to defend necessitarianism? Amy Karofsky released a book within the last couple years with Routledge defending the position that there is no contingency. Michael Della Rocca has recently released a book on the topic as well, basically taking a Parmenidean approach (while making heavy use of the PSR).

    While I think there are some interesting arguments against such a position (that there is no contingency, but only necessity), I do tend to agree with the impression that the counter-intuitiveness of their position often does a lot of work for most people in rejecting necessitarianism. I wanted to get your thoughts.

    1. The Philosophy Department at Hofstra University is hosting a Symposium for A Case for Necessitarianism on Friday, March 10 from 1:00-6:00pm (EST). The following speakers will be on the panel: Simone Gozzano, Stephen Maitzen, Antonella Mallozzi. The symposium will be live and on Zoom. MEETING ID: 932 7607 9765 PASSCODE: 975708

      Amy Karofsky did her dissertation on The Ontology of Alethic Modalities in Aquinas, Suarez and Leibniz. She will be on The Majesty of Reason in May(!!)

      There are no good _arguments_ against Necessitarianism (aka Modal Collapse). We agree to avoid it by embracing systems that would make Rube Goldberg cringe.

  5. Dr. Feser,

    How does the state justly offer mercy to criminals? We do not want to say that every murderer must necessarily be executed, but we also do not want to say that the State can slap a murderer on the wrist with twenty hours of community service. How is that determination made?

    1. I've heard mercy described as being suitable to give when it is to the spiritual benefit of the individual. Ex: if God let us suffer the consequences of everything we do, we probably would be unhelpfully miserable and disheartened. It is his mercy that protects us from many of those consequences.

      I think you have to ask. Is it in the spiritual interest of the convicted murderer to get off with some small amount of community service? Probably not. He might just go and murder again! A harsh punishment just might be mercy to him - if it leads to conversion.

      So you should never punish beyond the dictates of justice, but out of what is truly in the best interests of the perpetrator you may administer mercy. Even then, I think the extension of mercy needs to be balanced with a view towards the common good. How does giving mercy to said murderer impact the broader community and the victim's families?

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    4. Because retribution is the primary end of punishment, it is necessarily the case that ends like reform and deterrence are secondary ends (or, less than that, mere incidental ends). According to St. Thomas, secondary ends are secondary by being in relation to the primary. They are not STAND-ALONE ends in a field that simply sit out there for you to pick and choose between, they come into the picture as related to the primary end.

      In the case of punishment, it is my opinion that reform is a secondary end by being related to the just, retributive, proportional punishment, in this way: The criminal, by suffering a penalty that is equal in scale to the offense he did, he can more readily believe and accept that what he suffers is "related to" what he did, i.e. it is due to what he did, i.e. that he is the root cause of what he suffers. And by knowing intimately that what he suffers is an evil, he can come to know that what he did is also evil. From this he can repent of his evil and turn toward the good. (He can also harden his heart and remain unrepentant - free will, after all.) In this, it is essential that he be able to recognize the suffering of his punishment as relatable to his own action by reason of scale, for that relation is the main driver of his recognition of the causality - that his evil is the source of his suffering. (It is essential that the criminal not perceive the state to impose penalties out of mere willfulness or whimsy, or hatred.)

      Based on this, it is an obvious problem to urge, on a broadcast basis to ALL criminals, that they all be given lighter sentences, as if the scale of their punishments is irrelevant to the medicinal purpose of reform.

      That said, mercy (determined, for this limited purpose, as a lighter sentence than proportionality would specify), can be given in certain cases without danger to the whole just order, or without danger to the reform of the criminal. One example for the latter would be where the criminal has already reformed and has turned away from evil, (except that making a rule that you would forgive penalties when the criminal repents would cause false claims of repentance, so it must be administered sparingly on an individual basis upon clear and convincing evidence in spite of the known motivation of criminals to show repentance where it doesn't exist.)

      Also, mercy might be shown where the side effects of a proportional sentence would cause more harm to others than a lighter sentence would: e.g. a father of a large family, completely unlike his usual self, getting into a bar fight and being sentenced to 30 days in jail - which might cost him his job and even his profession. The harsh effects on his family outweigh the (small) deleterious effect on justice of giving him a lighter sentence than normal. So, the totality of good taking all effects into account favors a lighter sentence even though not perfectly proportional.

  6. Dear All,

    I've read Dr Feser's Aquinas a Beginners guide and I'm interested in learning more thomistic philosophy/theology. There are so many books out there I was wondering what people might recommend to get started? There seem to be a lot of introductory/overview books on thomism for example Reality by Garrigou-Lagrange, the Thought of Thomas Aquinas by Brian Davies, Aquinas by Eleonore Stump. Are there any big differences between these books and would these be a good place to start or are they too technical for a layman? I'm sorry if that's too general a question or has been covered before. Thank you very much for any advice or suggestions.

    Thank you so much Dr Feser for all your work and I hope God continues to bless you and your family.

    Best wishes,

    1. Feser’s Scholastic Metaphysics is a good next step. Definitely more challenging, but it should be doable. I think two more introductory texts on Thomism that would also benefit you greatly would be Dr. Michael Augros’ The Immortal in You (very easy book to follow on Thomistic psychology) and Dr. Steven Jensen’s Living The Good Life (easy to follow book on Thomistic Ethics).

      Once you have read those three books, I would read the first part of the Summa Theologiae (first 100 questions roughly) and follow along with a blog called ReadingTheSumma which gives a good explanation of each section. That will give you a great start, and you can probably find your way from there.

    2. Take 4 months and read the first 49 questions of the Summa along with Gaven Kerr's two books. Supplement it with all of his podcasts and interviews. Just my opinion but I wouldn't bother with others right now - they aren't doing exegesis on Thomas but building their own little projects. Kerr is very unique in trying to read Thomas on his own terms. Only after doing that can you move on to understand what others are saying.

    3. Thank you very much Jack and anonymous for your suggestions, I really appreciate you taking the time to help me.
      Best wishes,

    4. Brian Davies' book is excellent. I would not attempt Scholastic Metaphysics if this is your first go at Aristotelian-Thomism. In fact, I would recommend something like Peter Kreeft's Summa of the Summa. Not only are you reading Aquinas, but Kreeft's glossary and notes are helpful as you're getting acclimated to scholastic terms/definitions.

    5. Thank you very much Anonymous for your suggestions. I was a bit worried that Scholastic Metaphysics might be too much for me. I have Brian Davies' Introduction to Philosophy of Religion book so maybe his Thought of Thomas Aquinas book might be manageable for me. I like Peter Kreeft's work but haven't seen that one so maybe as you say that might be a better place to start for me. Thank you very much for your suggestions.
      Best wishes,

  7. Dr Feser, how about a collection of links? It's been a while, you have good taste, thanks!

  8. Like Dr. Feser's books, all of Fr. Brian Davies' books are scholarly but clearly written and understandable. Dr Stump's books will require more effort, but her devotional writings online are good. Garrigou-LaGrange's books are classics and are not hard going, but they were written in the 1930s and 40s. Read books by Dr Feser, Fr Davies, and read up on some the books in the bibliography of their books, and that should keep you busy for a while. If you have access to a university library, particularly a Catholic university library, all the better.

    1. Thank you very much for your explanations and suggestions, that is very helpful.
      Best wishes,

  9. Hey just want to let everyone know that the Classical Theism forum of the past has had a small revival on this discord, listed below. It's been moderately active, but definitely looking for some more people to engage with in meaningful discussions!

    Here's the invite:

  10. SW. I will mention 4 more that are good. short books. They may be out of print but you can find them used at
    A. Simplified Introduction to the Wisdom of St Thomas by Peter Redpath
    The Romance of. Reason by Montague Brown
    Hooked on Philosophy by Robert O'Donnell
    A First Glance at St.Thomas Aquinas by Ralph McInerny

    1. Hi anonymous, thank you very much for your suggestions, I've not heard of those books before so will defitiely check them out, thank you.
      Best wishes,

  11. I was planning on reading through the major writings of the Muslim philosophers who lived during the golden age of Islamic philosophy (i.e. Averroes, Avicenna, Al-Ghazali, etc.) Unfortunately, from what I can tell, most of their writings seem to only be available in Arabic.

    For example, there's this one philosophy book called "Asas al-Taqdis" (it means "The Foundation of Declaring Allah's Transcendence") by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi; but, the problem is, this book seems to only be available in Arabic. Short of learning Arabic, I don't know how I'd be able to read most of these books.

    Does anyone know of any websites where I would be able to read their books in English?
    Or should I try to find/purchase book translations of them?

    1. Michael
      Google search "Islamic philosophy" under the Wikipedia entry, look at the bibliography and references. There are a number of books written in English.

    2. Avicenna and AL-Ghazali books are available in English. So are others. Just Google away.

    3. Peter Adamson has a chapter on Al-Razi in his Philosophy in the Islamic World. He says: " His works are almost inacessible to the English reader because they have hardly been translated." Peter Adamson's excellent podcast series, The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, has the Al-Razi episode as number 173.

    4. Avicenna and Averroes have a decent number of translations. Metaphysics of the healing alone will take a good chunk of the year to get through. You could start with the Decisive Treatise, then move to the Healing, and then maybe Aquinas and Averroes dialectic

  12. Ed's books Scholastic Metaphysics and Aristotle's Revenge make for good reading if you enjoyed Aquinas.

    1. Hi John, thank you very much. I guess I was maybe a bit intimidated by them but I did enjoy Aqinuas and I feel like I was able to understand most of it so maybe they would be a good next step to try. Thank you.
      Best wishes,

  13. Ed, how is your book on the Soul coming along? Do you have an estimated ETA?

    1. The writing should be done by the end of the summer, so I'd guess that the book will be out next year.

    2. Dr. Feser,
      Will you be addressing the many difficulties in asserting a real existing human soul?

      The interaction problem. How does the soul connect with the brain, our senses, and our bodies to perceive our perceptions and drive our actions? I mean specifically, the physics of the interaction mechanisms, do you have a theory, perhaps a Feynman diagram of the particle interactions at the soul-body interface?

      What is the soul made of? If the soul is said to exist supernaturally how is that not an incoherent assertion, given that the term "supernatural" is inherently incoherent, meaning "existing beyond all that exists"?

      If the soul is what accounts for the apparent self moving ability denied in the First Way why was it not mentioned explicitly in the First Way? Does that mean every self moving object has a soul, say, a worm soul, a rocket soul, a star soul to account for the false premise in the First Way of no self movers?

      Why is there no scientific evidence for the soul? By scientific, in this context, I mean repeatable, detectable, recordable physical evidence? If the answer is that the soul is supernatural, and apart from the incoherence of that term, how can anything that causes our muscles to move be undetectable, even in principle? Isn't it incoherent to assert that something that strongly interacts with the physical moment to moment to originate our moment to moment self moving is also physically undetectable even in principle?

      Where does the soul come from and when does it arrive? Now, I realize not all Catholics hold identical views on all matters, so please allow me to apologize in advance for any presumptuousness here, but I think it likely you assert the origination of each soul is a separate miracle of god, which is performed at conception for each of us.

      Have you identified the exact moment this miracle occurs? When the first sperm penetrates the egg wall? Does the entire tail have to enter first? Or is the egg-sperm imparted with a soul as the sperm breaks apart? When the DNA of the two previously separate cells join? Upon first cell division? Or perhaps as late as implantation? The answers could have major impact on medical ethics from a catholic perspective.

    3. @ StardustyPsyche,

      You continue to repeat yourself:

      "the many difficulties in asserting a real existing human soul"

      Your basic argument is to be seen here. "Difficulties" to you are difficulties period. Why would that be? Well you have told us. It is because you say so, and you have told us that you are the best thinker here. But when your conclusion is your premise, your logic is very funny to behold. 😀

      A list of questions is not a proof. "Difficulties", OTOH, are a dime, or much less, a dozen. In your case, they are worth nothing, because you are not looking for Truth. You are looking to avoid and evade Truth.


      Tom Cohoe

    4. Tom,
      "Well you have told us. It is because you say so,"
      You repeat this untruth so frequently as to give the appearance that it is a deliberate untruth on your part.

      "You continue to repeat yourself"
      Yet you show no signs of grasping the logical arguments I present, and no logical counter arguments are presented by you that address my specific points, nor do you provide specific factual answers to my questions.

      "A list of questions is not a proof"
      Indeed, perhaps you care to answer my above questions, specifically, logically, and factually? From there I will oblige you with the proofs of your mistakes, to the extent that your answers are, if they are, in fact, mistaken.

    5. @ StardustyPsyche,

      Just as I complained that every comedian gets boring, you have said something genuinely funny and are redeeming yourself:

      "You repeat this untruth so frequently as to give the appearance that it is a deliberate untruth on your part."

      I believe what is true. Repeating it doesn't cause it to change to a deliberate "untruth".


      The greatness and superiority of your logic rests only on your claim that it is so, but as you have just demonstrated, your logic is just funny, funny, funny.

      Heh 😀.

      I have answered all of your points, but you refuse to contemplate my answers and just repeat your objections arising from your authority which_may_not_be_disputed.

      I'm sorry, but your whole post makes me laugh.


      Then you have failed to prove. Your questions are just a plea for another chance.

      No! It's off to failed logic prison for you 🤣.


      Tom Cohoe

    6. Stardusty,

      Looks like you'll have to wait and actually buy the book if you're interested.

      This may be a spoiler alert, but it is the difference between inanimate things and animate things.

    7. bmiller,
      "it is the difference between inanimate things and animate things"
      Ok, you seem to be asserting that animate things have a soul that accounts for their self moving, but inanimate things do not have a soul to account for their self moving and therefore their mutual moving.

      You seem to thus be asserting that worms and bacteria have souls, as they are animate objects. But rockets and stars and electrons do not have souls.

      Yet rockets and stars move themselves, and electrons move each other and in so doing also move themselves.

      Therefore the assertion of no self movers in the First Way is false making the First Way unsound, that is, a failed argument.

    8. Stardusty,

      You seem to make distinctions between animate and inanimate things pretty much the same as everyone else. What exactly do you think that distinction is?

    9. bmiller,
      "What exactly do you think that distinction is?"
      Aquinas was wrong either way.

      There are self movers, obviously. That makes the First Way, in what is evident to the senses, wrong.

      The First Way fails because there are self movers, obviously, whereas Aquinas claimed the obvious fact of observation somehow is not the case, making the First Way unsound.

      Stars, rockets, self drive cars, bacteria, and on and on. Examples of self movers abound, making disproofs of Aquinas numerous, whether you want to label some subset of those counterexamples animate or not, the First Way remains unsound.

    10. @ StardustyPsyche,

      "electrons move each other and in so doing also move themselves"

      That's a leap. Heh. If A bounces off of B then A has bounced off of A. 🤣

      Yep, you sure are (not) showing the failure of the First Way. 😀

      Tripe can be entertaining.


      In your response to Pertusato, who is "we".
      Is it you? Why is your view important? We think that it is not. Ha ha ha. 🤣 Your answer is obviously in your initial blind assumption (i.e., it is circular).


      Tom Cohoe

    11. Stardusty,

      This study shows infants recognize that animate things change their own motion while inanimate things only change when they are moved.

      You've indicated you implicitly believe the same by correctly identifying stars and electrons as inanimate just like ordinary infants even while trying to tell everyone they are actually animate. I call shenanigans!

    12. @ StardustyPsyche,

      Aquinas does not actually deny that things follow physical rules in the First Way. But his articulation is there for you to hack and misinterpret because you have a will to do so. A rocket moves because it has a potential to an action, which is to move but it will just sit on its launching pad unless something else causes it to act into motion, something whose act is to launch the rocket (don't talk to me about timer circuits, etcetera - they are subject to the same analysis, no matter how much you dive into complexity, the antithesis of the simplicity which true science seeks).

      "It is therefore impossible," says Aquinas in the First Way, "that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e, that it should move itself." How come I can understand that and you can't?

      You have shown nothing to be unsound here except your own thinking, bound as it is by your freely willed clinging to a premise that leads you to see contradiction where none exists.

      Tom Cohoe

    13. bmiller,
      "This study shows infants recognize"
      Infants? The jokes write themselves.

      "identifying stars and electrons as inanimate just like ordinary infants even while trying to tell everyone they are actually animate. I call shenanigans!"
      Living things, rockets, stars, and on and on and on. Examples of composite objects that move themselves abound.

      Aquinas cited examples of composite objects and asserted such objects could not move themselves. Aquinas was wrong.

      At this time an electron is considered to be what physicists call a point-like particle, which is at this time considered to be non-composite, rather, a fundamental particle.

      Electrons move each other and in so doing move themselves being both mover and moved, making Aquinas wrong and wrong and logically invalid.

      Aquinas failed to account for the third choice, mutual movers, so his argument uses a false dichotomy, and is thus logically invalid.

      Aquinas failed because he said an object cannot move itself, but counterexamples abound.

      Aquinas failed because he said an object cannot be both mover and moved, but counterexamples abound.

    14. Stardusty,

      You should have just mentioned up front that you're a hylozoist and that all things are alive. It would have saved a lot of words.

      That's not a common view of materialists these days. Especially since it is inherent in human nature to be able to distinguish between the inanimate and the animate.

  14. So... what do people think about Prime Matter? (It's really late here- I always want to get to one of these before there are too many comments and there's less likelihood of people responding to my comments- so... excuse the awkwardness of my address! My brain's on sleepy mode!)
    Anyway- Prime Matter (I'm always asking this- sorry): I don't know what it is. It would be a problem if it's a sort of Something that is Nothing in Particular... because... I don't see how something could exist without being THIS rather than THAT. Is Prime Matter just some sort of property of objects? How?
    David Oderberg has this notion that it's energy; but that would... how shall it be said? Kind of push Form (co-relatively) towards being defined as a sort of Stable Interaction- since that's what it seems like Energy... does- how it flows from one thing to another. I'm not sure that solves my problems: is Energy a thing in itself, a convenient way of describing things (like Forces), or itself only a property of things, and/or their interactions... but somehow, it does feel... better. Closer to something I could accept.

    It seems to me that one could work out the Laws of Nature to serve much the same role that Prime Matter is supposed to have. Say: the molecules, etc., in a cucumber are still the same molecules when they've been digested as they are before that- they're doing something fundamentally different, but it's still... that they're on the same trajectory, so to speak. And that Trajectory is defined by the Laws of Nature.

    Alright... I'm REALLY tired. I'm gonna stop this comment now. Hope this is thought provoking!

    1. To my mind, prime matter is a kind of Schrödinger's cat of metaphysics. It is both something and nothing. If we speak of pure potentiality, do we mean that pure potentiality is equivalent to prime matter, or that pure potentiality inheres in prime matter? The latter would make prime matter a substance, so that won't do. The former makes it nothing, which is fine by me.

      Since the will and knowledge of God are sufficient both to keep all things in being, and to effect any change in them, why posit prime matter? It is not as if God needs it, on the grounds that his will and knowledge alone are insufficient to maintain creation in being.

      Like the Ptolemaic epicycles, prime matter saves the appearances, which is why I call it a useful fiction, but in the end it falls to Ockham's razor.

    2. Seeing how prime matter can't exist on its own and all that one can say that it is closer to a being atribute than to a substance.

      It pluzzles me as well. Prime matter seems to be the material thing particularity aspect(a limited shape, size etc) and form the material thing universal aspect(its principle of organization etc). But since every being already has a form them one cant isolate the matter and analyse it alone.

    3. Cool replies Jonathan & Talmid! They're helping clarify this issue in my head! (btw: my name is also Jonathan! That'll come up later!). Some specific answers:

      @Talmid: It seems like Prime Matter IS the same thing between 2 objects when there's a case of Substantial Change, and thus it must be something more-or-less universal, rather than merely particular... doesn't it? And not an attribute, but a substance. I.e.... well, let's take the simplest case that I can think of, a man dying: the body goes from being a Human Body to being a Dead Body- so to speak- and this is supposed to be explained by Prime Matter since these are Substantially different- that this much stays the same between the 2. So.... yeah. :-|

      @Jonathan: It looks to me like you're advocating some sort of Theistic Nominalism. To my mind, quite frankly, Nominalism fails on a number of levels: we can know Forms, and they exist- they aren't arbitrarily imposed on Reality by either Man or God. At the very least we can know- or get at least some idea of- the Form of Reality, since we know the Law of Non-Contradiction; and I think we'd need to know other sorts of Forms as well to be able to say we know things (such as the form of ourselves as Rational Creatures, or Space & Time... or whatever). And once you begin to admit Forms, I don't see how you can stop them (i.e.: the Forms of... say stars & rocks & battleships- no reason to doubt them, now that you've admitted so many others!).

      It seems to me that the argument FOR Prime Matter goes something like this:
      1) Something must stay the same in the case of Substantial Change. (I.e., when a man's body goes from living to dead we have to say something changes & something stays the same; otherwise we must deny that the soul's the form of the body- which wont do (hypothetically), or else posit that something (the living man) disappears, & something else (the dead body) is Specially Created - which seems absurd).
      2) This something must be, in some way, a part of whole object (say, the atoms & molecules of the body- dead or alive). (Since nothing except parts of a whole will do).
      3) The parts of a thing, at their most basic level, are reducible to its whole.
      Conclusion: There must be something making up the whole of things, which, at it's most basic level, which has no particular identity in itself (...or, something like that!) which stays the same in the case of substantial change.

      To my mind, it's Premise 3, there, that is the most controversial- and also the least defended. Sure, it seems to me that... Form is Identity in a certain sense, but it seems to me that there might be several different kinds of Identity! When I went from being a non-Christian to a Christian in SOME sense my identity changed, but in another sense- in a way, more centrally, or Primarily- I was the same Jonathan as before. So it would make sense that the atoms & molecules would be the same atoms & molecules as before, but that their secondary Identity- being molecules of this man's body- would change (to being those of a DEAD body). That would be MY alternative to the Prime Matter hypothesis- so to speak. Needs to be worked out more- and I think the notion of physical laws can help (and so might the concept of Energy, actually)- but that's at least a beginning, or a rough sketch of what I'd offer.

    4. Hey, II Jonathan! Funny coincidence.

      "let's take the simplest case that I can think of, a man dying: the body goes from being a Human Body to being a Dead Body- so to speak- and this is supposed to be explained by Prime Matter since these are Substantially different- that this much stays the same between the 2. So.... yeah. :-|"

      Well, once you have a human body you have this being "stuck" on a certain size, weight etc and once the human dies them the form does change but the "stuck" part has mostly the same dimentions, so there is something that changes but the newbeing resemble the old one in a way.

      Could prime matter be them a sort of pseudo-aubstance that provides this sort of continuity between a form and another but that is never its own substance? I admit that this is what i have in mind on the moment. Seeing how our language of substanciality is made to account for wholes it makes sense that it does not work well with the parts.

    5. (Cont)
      Just came across this:
      "Now, as the Commentator observes on the First Book of Physics and in De Substantia Orbis, in the matter of things subject to generation and corruption, we must presuppose undeterminate dimensions, by reason of which matter is divisible, so as to be able to receive various forms in its various parts. Wherefore after the separation of the substantial form from matter, these dimensions still remain the same: and consequently the matter existing under those dimensions, whatever form it receive, is more identified with that which was generated from it, than any other part of matter existing under any form whatever."

    6. Dear @geekiness

      Just to elaborate a little bit more about the concept of Prime Matter I will add some crucial points as to why it must be real - and why you guys are thinking about it wrong in some aspects.

      Prime Matter is not a property in the contemporary philosophical sense. In fact, it is a constituent that is united with substantial form to make a substance. You can analyze a substance in its constituents (i.e substantial form and prime matter). Still, they will inevitably point back at the substance itself - because these constituents can't exist (generally, in the case of substantial forms) on their own.

      The point I made above is crucial to understand some aspects of Prime Matter because you can't think of it the way you are actually thinking about it. When you think about its 'existing' you are implicitly committed to its sole existence and that's wrong. Prime Matter cannot exist on its own.

      When you say: " I don't see how something could exist without being THIS rather than THAT." you are referring to a substance - not Prime Matter. Prime Matter is common to things but, as I said, it could only begin to exist when united with substantial form - and it's the substantial form that makes something this rather than that (that's why our world of actual existents only contain matter already informed i.e secondary matter).

      You need to understand that Prime Matter is necessary for explaining change, specifically substantial change. Prime Matter is not actual but is constitutively prior to any possible substantial change at all. And that's how you should think about it. To think about it otherwise is to blur the distinction between Act and Potency and that's what @Jonathan is doing.

      Everything that ACTUALLY exists is secondary matter (i.e matter that already has some form or another). Prime Matter is the thing that underlies the possibility of us not existing in a Parmenidean world.

      When a sample of Uranium-238 decays in Thorium-234 something has changed. You can't say that the Uranium was insta-annihilated and instantly replaced with Thorium. You do not have Uranium anymore but it has changed to Thorium, how is that possible? You can't actually say that the FORM of Uranium has changed to Thorium because they have distinct and well-defined activities, accidents, etc. but definitively something has changed. That's where Prime Matter comes in i.e is the principle that is constitutive of every substance that is actualized and acted by Form (most precisely in my example, an efficient cause that imparts a new form/mode of being in the thing).

      (I will continue bellow)

    7. (Continuing...)

      Another mistake is to think that it's Prime Matter that individuates things. It cannot be Prime Matter that does this job because it's common to everything. It's actually designated matter that is responsible for doing so (it's important to note that substantial form is also very important in doing so).

      Prime Matter also cannot be a substance because it would exist on its own and that can't be the case.

      When it comes to the example of a dead body, no sane person would deny that a dead body is not the same thing as a living person. A living human being is actually unified and has an inner organizing principle that is responsible for its behavior, powers, etc. a dead body has no such thing. It only resembles a living person for a while. In short, a living thing has immanent causality (it acts for itself for the sake of itself) and a dead body, like every other inorganic thing in the universe, only has transeunt causality (i.e it causes only in another and only suffers actions from other things but never actually does something like perfecting itself).

      I could go on and dig that the accidents that constitute a living person are numerically different in a dead body and a lot of other crucial distinctions, but for now, I think that the point is clear enough i.e a living thing is a unified thing that acts for itself for its own sake and inorganic things or dead bodies cannot have such a perfect degree of unity or even act immanently.

      And why that distinction is important? I would say that's what turns Prime Matter more evident than anything. A living thing is constituted of inorganic things that do not actually exercise immanent causality in any circumstance. But when they are present in a living thing, their mode of being, say, changes radically.

      To somewhat quote a pseudo-hylemorphist (i.e William Jaworski): "when electrons are part of me they are depolarizing my membranes". But electrons, in their normal state, do not do such a thing. They only act in another or are acted by another. So why and how do they have such a radical change of behavior when in a living thing? The only plausible answer is that they are being informed by the form sorry for the redundancy) of a living thing - and the Prime Matter that once constituted them is now constituting the living being.

      And that's why when a person, unfortunately, dies the body decomposes - because the Prime Matter that once underlined the living being has now just lost its substantial form. And the atoms, electrons, calcium, iron, and whatever else constituted the human person have now another form underlying them (it's important to remember that Aristotle taught us when confronted by reductionists of his age that these constituents could potentially exist apart from the human being as substances in their own right when not incorporated by its organic system).

      I really hope that helps and I'm sorry if some parts of what I wrote are hard to understand ( I'm feeling very tired these days).

      May God bless us all!

  15. Oh- another thing about Prime Matter:
    I think there might be an analogy between PRime Matter & Money. As in- just as Prime Matter might be... formed into just ANYTHING (under various circumstances), money might BUY just ANYTHING (under various circumstances).

    This would explain why the God of Love forbids Greed- and "The Love of Money is the Root of All Kinds of Evil". If it was the love of something in particular (say a house or a car), there'd be nothing wrong w/ it- in theory, provided this was a wel-regulated love. But Money is essentially that which we trade for somehting else- so there's something ESSENTIALLY disordered about loving IT- it's loving a sort of Nothing- or an Emptiness. (Insofar- I think- as you were out there to merely barter something- say that car- it would therein be more like a mere bit of money).
    What do people think?

    1. yes if money is to fulfill it's purpose as a partial solution to the problems of barter, it needs to be a little like prime matter. For one of the problems of barter is a coincidence of wants: I have fish, you have shoes, I want shoes, you don't want fish, so we cannot trade. With money we can.

      So in this sense, like prime matter, sound money is in potency to everything else.

      But in another sense it is unlike prime matter, for money has a definite quantity. While you and I can't produce it (that would be counterfeiting) the federal reserve can. A quick search reveals the m1 supply in the USA is about 20 trillion.

      You may have heard our government has a monopoly over the production of money.

      If they made and handed each citizen a million dollars tomorrow, would we be any richer? No. Prices would rise.

      But if they handed each a thousand dollars? We might not notice the price inflation. We might mistakenly believe we were richer.

      Curious how friends of the free market are against central planning of most goods.

      But when it comes to the most salable good: money? Then the government monopoly is desirable.


  16. What do you guys think of Kant connection between free will and morality? It seems to me a very interesting connection and i'am trying to develop it.

    It seems that once we stablish that the mind rationality involves a certain casuality of her thoughts that go beyond the mere casuality of bodies* we them arrive at a certain freedom of the mind which asks of a sort of way of this conceptual casuality being the mind direction on action, not only instinct and other bodily afections. It seemd that a free mind needs a directioning that comes from reason, like knowing the possible goods it can get and picking the best.

    Morality also seems to ask for free will, for if we cant orient ourselves with our knowledge of what is right them we can't be virtuous or vicious, we just are.

    I'am trying to develop the reasoning but it is not that easy.

    *since it orients itself from concepts to concepts, think of Ed argument for dualism

  17. I'm looking for more about Classical Liberalism, particularly the Lockean variety and how traditional, orthodox (lower-case "o") Christians should view the theory. How do Catholics view Classical Liberalism? How do Catholics view Locke's critique of "fatherhood"? And what is your position on Patrick Deneen's book, _Why Liberalism Failed_? I am sympathetic to most of his views, but I'm wondering if he doesn't strawman Classical Liberalism?

    1. WCB

      Classical Liberalism as a theory rested on the foundations of laissez faire and free trade. In its most primitive form it fails. The horrors of the industrial revolution demonstrated that. Another problem is that it leads to kleptocracies, oligarchy, and monopolies. Its descendent, neo-libearlism has also left a trail of wreckage behind it. Russia's oligarchical kleptocracy is what we get when crony capitalism takes over and run things into the ground. Several popes have spoken out against the abuses of classical liberalism because of the bad effects of bad ecomomic systems.


      The history of all of this is immense so its hard to get your hands around it. Especially as there are large numbers of Economic charletons muddying these waters. Study economic history to help figure this out.

    2. Thanks for the reply, Anonymous.

      Can you point me to any papal encyclicals (or general writings) regarding the topic?

      You mentioned that Classical Liberalism depends on Laissez Faire and free trade, two things which manifestly don't exist in 2023 and, quite frankly, haven't existed in many generations. Is the decay of our current state (by which I mean the West, not necessarily the US) a result of losing these two things, or is it a consequence of Classical Liberalism per se?

      Finally, do you have any recommendations on economic history? I've read several economy books, but they are all of the Austrian variety (a la Mises and his disciples) and are staunchly pro-Classical-liberalism.

      I'm currently studying this topic in a grad class and most everyone is in the corner of Classical Liberalism. And while I think I am, too, I want to mount an honest effort against it to help me clarify my own beliefs.

      Thanks again!

    3. Joe,

      Have you ever read "The Law" by Bastiat?

      Here's a video:

      And a link to the complete essay (that seems to not work at the moment):

      It is attractive because it promotes a subsidiarity system of government and opposed to monopoly per Catholic social doctrine. But of course government ends up being run by men who don't have the common good as their highest priority.

    4. Joe,

      BTW, Ed has a book on Locke that may give you insight. He lists both the positives and negatives of Classical Liberalism. So there is no total endorsement or condemnation.

  18. Hey Ed, could you talk about the Thomist-Physicist Anthony Rizzi? He has a great Philosophy of Science series, but he recently won a noble prize. EWTN has some good sources of his.

  19. Hard Science fiction rulez! Also the Problem of Evil is a non-problem given that God is not a moral agent in the univocal way a maximally virtuous creature is a moral agent. The Bible clearly teaches God is not a moral agent. Etc.

    Now let's see if a troll shows up?


    PS Star Wars Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn is the true Episode 7. Disney is making bad fan films for non fans.

    1. Denis Villeneuve, the director of Dune, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, is working on an adaptation of Arthur C Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama.

    2. WCB

      Things without minds cannot be moral actors if morality involves intent. Things like jellyfish, slime molds, turnips et al are not capable of morality or moral intent.

      Is it your claim God is mindless. No.

      If God could act to eliminate evil and does not, God then is a moral actor, refusing to act.

      Consequntialism. Evil exists because of consequences from God's refusal to act God's refusal to act though theoretically God could act causes evil to come into existence.

      What Davies does here is refuses to follow theological dogmas to their logical conclusion.

      But besides that, there is the very real problem of theological fatalism


    3. Right on cue. Repeating nonsense long ago answered.
      Cheers Willie.

      One hopes it is cool and not woke crap.

    4. WCB

      Still not answered actually.

      Whatever good we attribute to creatures, pre-exists in God," and in a more excellent and higher way. Hence it does not follow that God is good, because He causes goodness; but rather, on the contrary, He causes goodness in things because He is good; according to what Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. i, 32), "Because He is good, we are."

      But many people are not good. Nazis. Bolsheviks, Mongols, etc. That never gets explained. Not by Aquinas. Free will? As per presuppositionalists, God creates everything including metaphysical necessities such as logic. If so, a good God could create a Universe where all mankind has free will and freely chooses to never do moral evil. So where does logic come from? From God or outside God, beyond his control and limiting God? Maybe logic and the metaphysical necessities exist and make the Universe what it is and there is no God, no need for God.

      Then we have the problem of theological fatalism. If God has foreknowledge of all and creates the Universe, God's initial chosen state of creation means all else is hard determined, caused solely by God, including all acts of moral evil. Since God's foeknowledge is explicitely claimed to exist in the Bible, abandoning such claims as do Process theologians means admiting the Bible's claims are not true.

      There seems to be a lot wrong with the concepts of the Classical God.

      None of this is explained in any reasonable fashion.


    5. Does the Classical Theist response to the PoE (Problem of Evil) only address the logical version of the problem, or does it also work against the evidential version?

      The evidential version was made famous by William L. Rowe in the 1970's. Here's the basic argument:

      1. If God exists, then gratuitous evil* does not exist
      2. Gratuitous evil does exist
      3. Therefore, God does not exist

      * "Gratuitous evil" means evil for which there can be no justifying reason for allowing it.

      Does Brian Davies book on the PoE address this version, or does he only address the logical version?

    6. Davies response to the problem of evil* does answer the logical problem as well. If his response works them Rowe first premise is false, for God can allows gratuitous evil while being Goodness Itself.

      *the argument is hardly representative of all classical theists approach on the problem of evil.

    7. @Michael. To say that one cannot think of a justified reason for X does not mean that one does not exist. Our temporal perspective, by definition, cannot see things through the lens of eternity. It's like saying that there are no unicorns in the universe. We haven't explored the universe, so we have no warrant to make that claim. Similarly, without an eternal perspective, we lack the footing to foreclose justification.

      Moreover, on what standard is the term unjustified based? If it's rooted in the arguer's criteria for right and wrong, then justification is subjective and cannot be the basis of denying God's existence. However, if the arguer is relying on an absolute standard of right to evaluate X, the arguer must then acknowledge that absolute good and instances of X are compatible.

  20. So, my "news feed" which appears on this device whether I will it or no, informs me that a "top Catholic priest" has converted to the Religion of Submission.

    There had been some dismayed talk of this by antiTrad Catholic YouTube warriors - or one of them at least - several days ago.

    Previous to that, I had never heard of this Hilarion person. But then I have never heard of most members of the professional religious economy, be it "Catholic" or otherwise.

    Images of the guy on the Internet, depict a broad faced bespectacled fellow with that typical neck beard seemingly favored by (or bestowed as a curse by nature upon) those attracted to middle eastern mysticism; as he stands there posing for the camera in a strange looking (to me) ecclesiastical get-up.

    Apparently this "top Catholic priest" is, or was until just recently, qualifying as "top Catholic" by being a monk priest in an Eastern Rite Catholic Church of some variety located in California.

    Not long prior to acheiving that coveted but relatively brief status, he was Russian Orthodox. And prior to that he was a shy admirer of Sufi poetry and Islam; and prior to that, (he correctly labels this process as a "journey") he was a vague Protestant youth in his bedroom - tanking up on a longstanding but socially suspect interest in the theological inspirations emitted by Mohammad.

    However, once he had marinated sufficiently in the weaker sauce of a Trinitarian faith and overcame his timidity, he was able to shed his second-best Christian skin and emerge from the closet fully into the light as the poetic and soulful searcher for human community and the unknowable, unreachable, and hidden divine. That is to say, to reveal himself as the person he had always been just behind the facade of those social conventions which he had been forced to pantomime.

    Truly an inspiring story, which most certainly tells us - as we feeling types deeply feel - socially significant truths about something; whatever it is or is not that that something might turn out to be.

    A cynic, on the other hand, might wish that certain better known "top Catholic" ecclesiastical personalities would follow him out of the door.

    But that is probably too much to hope for given current circumstances.

    From my tablet ...

    1. Lofton isn't anti-trad.

    2. " 27, 2023 at 6:12 PM
      Lofton isn't anti-trad."

      Yeah, a chubby bald headed guy, that's him. Didn't know his name. That's quite a pick up on your part, given my brief allusion to an unnamed YouTuber whose name I did not even know.

      Had seen a few moments of his upload the other day and couldn't quite figure out what the big deal was. Thought he was referring to some patriarch on Cyprus or in the Levant somewhere. Didn't think any more about it til I saw it being trumpeted in the secular news, and then read three parts of the fellow's own explanation.

      As for the anti-trad characterization, you are probably correct as things stand at this moment.

      Having now forced myself to sample about an additional hour of his videos, I see that the specific reference that had earlier stuck in my mind was regarding his comment on Francis' further clamp down on the offering of the Tridentine Mass, as being in-principle justified as a reaction to a supposed "weaponization" of the Latin Mass by some of its advocates. This struck me as being untenable in principle, notwithstanding his proviso that he thought Bergoglio could have handled it with more temperance and in a less indiscriminately punitive manner.

      In a conversation which I also forced myself to watch, he spoke of having been highly disconcerted by Francis at one time, and much more tradition minded.

      Guessing where he will eventually settle and how precisely to describe it may be an interesting question .... for those who have a genuine and ongoing interest in his opinions.

    3. Lofton has had Trads on his Youtube streams & describes himself as a Trad.

      John Salza comes to mind as one of his guests. Radtrads are like New Atheist only slightly smarter obviously.

    4. @DNW

      Why do you even bother knowing about this folk? Forcing yourself to watch something aways sucks.

    5. "TalmidMarch 1, 2023 at 1:45 AM

      Why do you even bother knowing about this folk? Forcing yourself to watch something aways sucks."

      Yes, but there are several reasons, personal, and otherwise.

      In no particular order:

      - I think that we are honor bound to give a fair hearing to and have some solid no-bullsh1t-grasp of the ostensible reasoning behind even those positions which strike us as most uncongenial or even absurd. How else are we to model and possibly critique the geometry of the arguments?

      - there is always the chance that one has missed some important context or provisos in a superficial encounter.

      - It is less humiliating to correct a hasty conclusion than to dig in like a dishonest idiot; which, is immoral as well as stupid behavior.

      - one often finds out that the details are worse than one imagined.

      - I prefer to get above the maze and see all the pathways the arguments follow, rather than to merely memorize my own down inside.

      - I think the self-discipline is good. For example, I despise Marxism, but my copy of Tucker's Marx-Engels Reader, which dates back to my school days, is in tatters from repeated reference and review. This also gives me the confidence to speak or write critical comments off the cuff, as I am pretty certain my position is not based on a deficient understanding of the lay of the land, but on a patient and honest inspection of it.

      The Internet puts those resources at our fingertips, nowadays.

    6. One comment: there is no plausible basis for anyone to think that this guy's "journey" has reached its last point now: he is just as likely to move on to something else soon enough. And there is even less basis to believe that what he has arrived at now is in any way some sort of natural place to have landed, either as a (promising?) stepping stone or as a last point. Yeah, he so got to Chicago: that doesn't make Chicago a good place to get to on your way to Buenos Aires, or even Bangor, Maine, and especially not if your core objective is to avoid Chicago.

    7. @Anon

      I understand, that is fair. Is it the best way of knowing the position he defends or there is better defenders of it? I do not really know, but if yes them it is smart.

  21. Pronoun Fascism is not compatible with Inclusive Language in theology. It is dogmas that God in the divine essence has no sex or gender, but it is clear from Divine Revelation that God's preferred pronouns are "He", "Him" and "His"...just saying.....

    Why does the liberal "Inclusive Language" crowd disrespect the Almighty's preferred Pronouns?

    So, I should be fired or jailed for calling a blue haired obvious wee girl "her" instead of "they" or "them" or "he" if she has her blue hair cut short?

    But we can disrespect the Almighty's pronoun choice?

    Say it is not so...

    1. God is called "he" because the male pronoun is also the gender neutral pronoun in Hebrew. This is true also for the Queen's English. The popular idea among Christians that because there's something more godly and stronger about having a penis that therefore God must be male is juvenile and puerile.

    2. *Should be "The King's English". I forgot the monarch is Charles III...

    3. But that is not the point. These are God's pronouns and the Inclusive Language crowd disrespects them and mis-pronoun's Him.

      If that is a crime worst than murder or rape if done to the wee blue hair lassie(or "they" prefer Laddie) how much more so God Almighty?

      Also I notice Hebrew is not a Gender Neutral Language? There is an effort by the Woke'ster's to make it so. But it is not historically.

      QUOTE"But for Hebrew speakers, gender inclusivity is much more complicated. That’s because gender in Hebrew—as in Spanish, Hindi, French and other languages—is intimately woven into word construction. “Hebrew goes a lot further,” says Erez Levon, a professor of sociolinguistics at Queen Mary University of London who focuses on questions of gender and sexuality. He explains that the language is particularly restrictive because gender is conveyed through masculine or feminine verb, adjective and adverb endings and almost every other part of speech."END

      Anyway it is not "Christians" who choose to use Masculine Pronouns for the Deity. It was the Deity who inspired Holy Writ. If this is the Deity's chosen Pronouns then according to the moral laws of current day it is wrong to use anything other than God's preferred pronouns. Even if God's Church has determined it is infallible dogma God Himself in the Divine Essence has no sex or gender.

      So misgendering bad! Shame on the Inclusive Language crowd you cis gender naughty persons!

      Shame I say.:D


    4. @EmpoweredBeing

      Did not God Himself choose to be called Father, to represent Himself as the male lover and Israel/the faithful as the female lover and also choose to Incarnate as a man?

      Perhaps you do not see anything diferent on the male sex, but you should aways be open to Our Lord proving you wrong, He does that alot with us.

    5. Of course I have the humility to accept correction from Jesus.

    6. God is called "he" because the male pronoun is also the gender neutral pronoun in Hebrew.

      We should remember that God is also the author of the Hebrew culture, and of the Hebrew language. The God who could write His Story into the fabric of the events of the Israelite people was eminently able to prepare them for that role by germinating in them the language He wanted the Old Testament Scriptures recorded in. He was not constrained by the limits of the languages that he found on the scene.

      Anyway, whether it was best or not best to use a masculine form for God before the Incarnation, Christ settled the issue for us: He is male and masculine, and only masculine nouns, pronouns, etc, are appropriate to Him now that he has taken human flesh as a male.

    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. Michael Lofton speaks with Mike Lewis about the restriction of the TLM. He actually seems rather reasonable in person. Seems like a different person than the one who interacts on twitter.

  23. I came across a multi-installment review of The Last Superstition at atheismandthecity by "The Thinker" .
    I'm curious to know if anyone is familiar with these posts ?

  24. I recently finished the _ethics of money production_ by Jörg Guido Hülsman which "applies the tradition of philosophical realism to the analysis of money and banking. The great pioneer of this approach was the fourteenth century mathematician, physicist, economist, and bishop, Nicholas Oresme, who wrote the first treatise ever on inflation".

    What is money? What's it for? Who knew there was an ethical dimension to money production -- not the earning of it, but the production of it. And if money has a purpose, just as there is such a thing as a good knife or a bad knife, there is such a thing as sound money, and unsound money.

    But I don't think I've read in your writings, Dr. Feser, the teleology of money, or ethics of production. Is inflation theft?

    These are questions Hülsman touches upon from "the tradition of philosophical realism". Love to hear your thoughts on this some day, for I'm inclined to accept Hülsman's arguments, and could use check from the Scholastic I trust most: you.

    1. This looks like a good book by a good author. I'll be sure to read it.

  25. I'm curious to hear if there are any other orthodox Catholics who suffer from OCD. I've had it for about 20-25 years and have been diagnosed only within the past year. It's often mistaken for general anxiety/depression. Often, it doesn't have the stereotypical symptoms like constant handwashing, or arranging of items, or so on. Often the compulsions are entirely mental so it gets mistaken for anxiety. Many professionals don't know how to diagnose it. One way of describing it is a pathological need for certainty (Descartes, anyone?) in certain aspects of life. It often involves chronic doubt and intolerance thereof, especially about the things that are most important to the person. Massive overthinking of everything, and worrying about bizarre things, can be a sign of OCD.

    It's a really weird condition, particularly when the Faith is concerned. It affects the way you view everything and the way you do everything -- the way you pray, the way you relate to God, the way you view sin, and so on. Most Christians know about scrupulosity as a concept, but few realize it's a pathological need for certainty in religious/moral matters, just as compulsive handwashing is a pathological need for certainty about cleanliness. To put it another way, scrupulosity is only materially, not formally, different from compulsive handwashing. The material object of OCD -- what you actually obsess about -- is likely to be determined by what the sufferer considers most important, or values the most, in his life. So for serious Catholics, the Faith is a very obvious candidate.

    In any case, the professional I'm seeing about it is not a Catholic, so I'd very much appreciate the chance to discuss it with someone in the household of Faith. Just to share tips and advice and war stories. I don't have a spiritual director. In general, I find the older liberal priests are easy to talk to and can give good psychological advice, but you can't talk for example about your fear of hell with them (because they don't believe in it); but the trad priests generally have a "toughen up, say an extra rosary and deal with it, buddy" mentality to anything of this sort, which of course only makes things worse.

    1. A couple resources that I found useful: "Feeling and Healing your Emotions" - Conrad W. Baars. And "The Doubting Disease" - Joseph W. Ciarrocchi.

    2. The antidepressant SSRiIs as u know can help with OCD. It's possible you may be dealing with scruples as it relates to your spiritual life. There is also what is called an obsessional personality as opposed to. OCD. These conditions can be difficult to treat..Try
      Also, there are a few Jesuit psychiatrists at St Louis Univ , Georgetown Univ or Loyola Univ .
      Pray for the intercession of St. Dymphna. I have struggled with chronic depression for most of my life. I. will pray for you. God is merciful . He knows your heart.

    3. At. Alphonsus Ligouru wrote extensively on this topic. I can't say anything about it personally because I definitely err in the direction of acedia and presumption myself.

    4. I share your experience, but I've been in therapy for a number of years. It started with not knowing if I confessed my sins correctly, then avoiding communion because I wasn't sure of being able to receive it, and ruminating all the time. At one point, I was basically hallucinating sins, seeing sin where there was none. It's not rational, but it turns out when humans experience acute anxiety, the frontal cortex shuts down, which makes rational thought go on standby.
      Even after being in therapy for years and having the tools for dealing with it, as well as SSRIs, I still struggle.
      If I had to find a silver lining, I guess I would say that I know on a experiential level why Martin Luther believed what he did. Not that I agree with it, but most of his conclusions flow from the experience of someone with moral OCD.
      Anyway, I would suggest exposure and response-prevention therapy, the therapist doesn't have to be Catholic. The point of the therapy is to trigger your anxiety and learn that you can tolerate the uncertainty, not to make you sin or de-convert you.

  26. Two questions regarding classical theism and some concepts:

    1- Why must God *immediately* cause/conserve all things in existence? This idea is often used to argue for concurrentism (like in Suárez) by assuming that conservationists would grant that God *immediately* conserves everything anyway. But why accept that? Why couldn't God simply be conserving some things, and these things (since they now exist) can then cause or conserve other things? In this case we would still have a First Cause and ultimate explanation for all things, it just wouldn't be immediately causing everything;

    2- How exactly do we move from "a being the existence of which is purely actual, not an actualized potency" to a being that has absolutely no passive potency whatsoever? Something can be both actual and potential at the same time in DIFFERENT aspects. So ex hypothesi, something could be purely actual with respect to X but potential with respect to Y.
    Simplicity is sometimes invoked here, to say that if a thing had passive potency then "one part of it would be actual and another part potential", but we need not think of really different parts here. Why can't it be the *the very same part*, or one and the very same thing, that is purely actual with respect to X but potential with respect to Y?
    Nothing can be both actual and potential at the same time and in the same respect, but we're not considering the same respect here. So again, if a thing is purely actual with respect to (say) its existence, with no potentiality in its existence, why couldn't it nevertheless be potential with respect to something else? This way a purely actual X could be potentially Y, and the "pure actuality" we conclude in cosmological arguments might not in fact be entirely changeless or lack any kind of passive potentiality whatsoever. How to answer this?

    1. @Anonymous: interesting questions.

      in the second alternative in your 1., do you ask whether the "other things" that God conserves immediately go on to conserve yet further things WITHOUT those further things' being conserved mediately by God? If the further things are not being conserved mediately by God, then I would think you are calling into question the notion of a hierarchical series of causes ordered per se. And you'd seem to be calling for a kind of deism.

      to your 2., I gather that you are wondering whether God can have being potentially with regard to Y's relation to Him while being actual with regard to X's relation to Him, even when X and Y denote different properties of the same created substance. I would think that the answer to your question is No from the POV of A-T. Thomism denies that God is in a real relation to any creature precisely because, AFAIK, it denies that God can have being potentially in any respect.

    2. @Anonymous

      As to (1), everything other than God is a composite existence and is thus in need of an explanation beyond itself. The explanation cannot be in some distant past; it rather lies in the here and now. This is the distinction between a per se and a per accidens causal series. Any contingent existence is an effect from a cause which is not explained by what is itself contingent. Thus, all contingent existence is sustained (explained) here and now by a cause which is not contingent.

      With respect to (2), Pure (unlimited) Act is another way of saying Pure (unlimited) Existence. If something is Pure Existence, then no determination or specificity of being can be added to it (one cannot add existence to unlimited existence). On the other hand, a being having any potency to exist is a specified (limited) existence. That is, its essence is not Existence Itself; it is actually a mixture (composite) of limited essence and an act of existence. If a thing’s essence is not to exist, then its essence is distinct from its act of existence and is thus a composite of act and potency, which makes it dependent on an actualizer to exist. And if its actualizer is itself a composite of essence and existence, then it too relies on another actualizer. As Aquinas shows, this cannot proceed to infinity, lest there be no explanation for the effect. Consequently, the ground of limited existence must be something whose essence is to exist.

    3. Bill and Ficino,

      I don't think your answer to (1) works. I am not denying per se series, and I am not proposing anything like existential inertia. Everything ultimately traces back to God/the Necessary Being, and every contingent being must be conserved in act at every moment. The issue is that God need not be *immediately* conserving everything at every moment; he might instead be conserving everything *mediately* at every moment. A contingent existence must be explained by something else, and eventually it must reach a necessary being, yes. But my question is about why we should think that God IMMEDIATELY conserves everything.

      Why couldn't it instead be this scenario S: God conserves X at t0, and then X conserves Y at t0? Since X exists at t0 (since it is conserved by God at t0), X can conserve Y at t0. In this case, God only immediately conserves X, and Y is immediately conserved by X. Y is only conserved by God indirectly, in the sense that God directly conserves X which then directly conserves Y. God does not directly make or conserve Y.

      Why can't we accept this?
      This is relevant because Aquinas, Suárez, etc. actually think such a scenario is impossible, and this is typically used as a way to argue for concurrentism. The idea is that since God must directly and immediately conserve everything, the same must happen for the actions of contingent things. I am not a concurrentist, I am a mere conservationist. So I am interested in this topic. The issue is, again, why would scenario S be impossible?

      I already have a putative reply for it, if you wanna consider it: the only reason I can think of is that making/conserving a contingent thing in existence would require the power to create ex nihilo, which is an infinite power that only an infinite being (God) can have. So God would have to immediately and directly conserve everything, not just indirectly. But this argument requires us to believe that all things are ultimately made ex nihilo, and this isn't so obvious, and it requires divine immutability (if God is not immutable, God could perhaps create from himself...), but I don't wanna get ahead of myself here. Anyway, if anyone knows of another response to 1 I'd be happy to hear it.

      Regarding 2:

      Ficino, it seems your reply already requires divine immutability, but immutability is precisely what is at stake in question 2. Why think the Pure Act of Existence is not potential for anything else?


      If I understand you correctly, are you arguing that, since Esse/Existence is the act of all acts, and everything in a being ultimately reduces to its Esse or form of Esse, then passive potentiality of any kind in a being would require its Esse to be potential in some way? And then that a being whose Esse is purely actual cannot have any potential, cannot change?
      If so, then I agree this is a promising path. It is how I tend to think about it. But it requires Aquinas's doctrine of Esse/Essence and Esse as the act of all acts. It therefore makes the Aristotelian proof of an immovable mover dependent on the argument from the De Ente. Isn't there another way to argue for immutability?

    4. @Anonymous, you write:

      The issue is that God need not be *immediately* conserving everything at every moment; he might instead be conserving everything *mediately* at every moment. A contingent existence must be explained by something else, and eventually it must reach a necessary being, yes. But my question is about why we should think that God IMMEDIATELY conserves everything.

      If you do not deny the force of a per se causal series, and if you acknowledge that every contingent being must be conserved in act at every moment, then I do not understand the difficulty in seeing God as the immediate sustaining cause of all contingent being. All composites are reliant on their parts for their actuation and conservation. Let’s say we have a rifle composed of two parts (1A & 1B). From this, it is easy to see that the elimination of either part entails the elimination of the rifle. Let us also say that 1A is also a composite that relies upon two parts to exist (2A & 2B). If we focus only on the A series, we can see that rifle  1A  2A. Thus, the elimination of 2A entails the elimination of 1A which entails the elimination of the rifle. But if 2A is itself a composite of two parts (3A & 3B) and if 3A is the termination of the causal series, then it should be obvious that 3A must be simple, else (if it were composite) it too would require an explanation for its existence. So, we have rifle  1A  2a  3A (ground). If 3A is the ground, then its elimination terminates the series and the rifle ceases to exist. So, though 1A & 2A are definitely “intermediaries” in a sense, their causal efficacy is derivative from an efficient cause which itself is not derived.

      One possible objection is that 3A is referred to as a “part” even though it is not a part of anything. However, the label “3A” serves only to illustrate the point (as is Aquinas’ hand, stick and rock analogy). Actually, both A & B terminate in a last member (or ground) which initiates the series. Everything contingent is a composite which has its ground in another. The series can only terminate in something not composite which has existence in itself.

    5. @Anonymous, you write:

      If I understand you correctly, are you arguing that, since Esse/Existence is the act of all acts, and everything in a being ultimately reduces to its Esse or form of Esse, then passive potentiality of any kind in a being would require its Esse to be potential in some way? And then that a being whose Esse is purely actual cannot have any potential, cannot change?

      Yes, that’s about the gist of it. The awkward sentence in the second paragraph (If a thing’s essence is not to exist…) should read, “If a thing’s essence is not existence itself, then its essence is really distinct from its act of existence…” A specified existence is a limited existence, and any further determination of being must be actualized by the potencies inherent in the kind of thing that it is. Its existence is restricted by the essence to which it is conjoined. Unspecified existence cannot be conjoined to a limiting essence, for its essence IS Pure Existence. I think immutability is sufficiently explained by this. Other attempts falter on the rocks of theistic personalism, in my opinion.

    6. Too many anonymi on this thread!

      @Anonymous who asked about mediate conservation of existence: as I recall, Prof. Feser said that positions boil down to three: deism, occasionalism, and concurrentism. You are trying to find a fourth position between deism and concurrentism? How does your position not cash out as one or the other of those?

      How would some thing, say, X, whose act of existence must be conferred by God, in turn confer an act of existence on another thing, say, Y? X does not have the power to actualize its own existence, since it is not pure act. So how can X have the power to confer an act of existence on Y unless as part of a series of causes made actual by God?

    7. There was only one anonymous, me.


      I think you're not understanding question 1. The term "immediate" might have been a source of confusion here. Forget that term, and let's talk of "direct" vs "indirect" conservation instead.

      Also, the question has nothing to do with whether there must be a simple first cause, or whether there is a per se series, etc. I accept all that. The question concerns whether 1) God is a *direct* per se cause of ALL beings, or whether 2) God is an *indirect* per se cause of all beings (and only a direct per se cause of some beings)

      The thing is there are at least two ways for God to be a per se cause of all things:

      1) God directly and per se conserves X at t, and X directly and per se conserves Y at t. So God does conserve Y per se at t, but only indirectly - by means of being the direct per se conserving cause of X at t.

      2) God directly and per se conserves X at t, and God directly and per se conserves Y at t, etc.

      Aquinas thinks 1 is in fact impossible, although in his presentations of proofs of God he allows it as a possibility for the sake of argument.
      There are some serious differences between the two. Suppose God wants to annihilate some substance Y. If the world is as depicted in (1), and Y is directly caused by X, then in order to annihilate Y, God will also have to annihilate X. Y exists because of X, and X exists because of God. God is an INDIRECT per se cause of Y, and as such he can annihilate Y by ceasing to conserve X. He must annihilate X in order to annihilate Y.
      If (2) is the case, however, then God can annihilate Y without having to annihilate X. Since God is a DIRECT per se cause of both, he can just cease to conserve Y while still conserving X, and then he can annihilate Y without annihilating X.

      This difference is also important for concurrentism versus mere conservation. If someone accepts God must be DIRECTLY causing each substance separately, then it's easier to argue he must also DIRECTLY concur with every action. Not so if God is only an indirect cause.

      But why think God must be a DIRECT per se cause of ALL things, as opposed to an indirect per se cause of all things? That was my question. Only answer I can think of is the ex nihilo one, but I'm a bit unsure of it at


    8. Ficino,

      I am a mere conservationist. That means I believe God ultimately (whether directly or indirectly, that is the question, see my earlier post) conserves all substances, powers, etc. in existence at every moment. But I do not accept that an already-existing thing (conserved by God) needs an additional, direct "helping" act by God in order to perform an action.
      If Feser labels this as "deism", I don't know, but that's what I'm talking about.

      "So how can X have the power to confer an act of existence on Y unless as part of a series of causes made actual by God?"

      It can't. X must ultimately be conserved by God. But given that X is already existent (conserved) at t, why wouldn't X be able to operate? Nothing can act or operate without existing. But if a contingent thing exists, why would it need an ADDITIONAL "helping hand" from God in order to do anything?

      I exist at t because God conserves my existence at t. But why is it that, in order to (say) think, my mind would require God to perform some additional act in me, a "concurring" act of my thinking which then allows me to actually think? Shouldn't it be enough that God is conserving me in existence at t? Since I exist, and my powers exist, why can't I just think by myself? Of course, if God ceased to conserve my existence at t, then my mind would disappear and would not be able to think. But given that God is conserving my existence at t, my powers at t, why can't I just think, why would God have to carry out an additional "concurrent thinking act" in me in order for me to think?

      If God must be a direct (as opposed to indirect) per se cause of all things, then this concurrentist argument is strengthened, but I still would not accept it. It just doesn't seem clear to me. Plus, I think concurrentism might be incoherent, and possibly incompatible with free will - but these are other arguments.


      Regarding question 2, I am sympathetic to that answer, as I said. But the downside is it would make the Aristotelian proof dependent on the Thomistic one in order to establish a Purely Actual being. Because it requires Aquinas's idea of Esse/Existence as the Act of all Acts.

      But perhaps Aquinas's view is already to be subtly present in the first way anyway. Maybe we can say a substance which just is act qua existing substance just cannot be potential in any respect, as the potency would have to involve some direct change in the substance qua substance, and thus the substance's actuality qua substance would have to be potential in some way...
      Immutability is a bit trickier to demonstrate than a lot of people think. I wish it received more attention.


    9. Hello again, Atno. With respect to Question 1, I’ll defer until I get more time. Regarding 2, you say that it is a “downside” that the Aristotelian proof is dependent on the Thomistic one to establish Pure Act. I would say that’s a given because Aristotle deduced multiple prime movers. Aquinas’ refinement concludes to one Actus Purus. By my lights, that’s an upside.

    10. Atno,

      Can you give an example of an X conserving a Y in existence?

    11. @Atno, thanks for your clarifications. I apologize for missing your point earlier. It just appeared to me that you were unintentionally spinning your wheels on the per se track. You write:

      Suppose God wants to annihilate some substance Y. If the world is as depicted in (1), and Y is directly caused by X, then in order to annihilate Y, God will also have to annihilate X. Y exists because of X, and X exists because of God. God is an INDIRECT per se cause of Y, and as such he can annihilate Y by ceasing to conserve X. He must annihilate X in order to annihilate Y.

      But if creaturely act is sustained by an antecedent cause, to eliminate the cause is to eliminate the effect, so I don’t see how X and Y are not both affected by one’s annihilation. For example, a cell, among other things, is composed of a membrane, cytoplasm and a nucleus. A cell’s actuation is thus dependent on all three if it remains a cell. Remove (annihilate) the cytoplasm, and you destroy the cell. Water is a composite of hydrogen and oxygen. Destroy either, you no longer have water. Any break in a per se chain destroys the effect from the break forward. In the water example, if God intends to annihilate hydrogen, He will have to create water with different components.

      Going back to Aquinas’ illustration (hand, stick, rock), though the per se series of rock movement is proximately grounded in human will, each link is also directly grounded in God. The stick, though it is held and pushed by the hand, is itself in “movement” and thus caused to be by God. Each cell, each atom in the stick is likewise caused to be. There are myriad movements within every chain with every link being caused to exist. Nothing contingent in any chain is without a cause. We can say on the one hand that a causal sequence of a rock’s movement is initiated by a human mind, but on the other hand, the series’ existence is caused and sustained by God. As Feser wrote in his Existential Inertia article, what holds a substance together? Form must be conjoined to matter, or essence must be conjoined to existence, but there is no perduring principle in either to keep them together. If they need to be conjoined, they need to be conserved because the contingency is not eliminated by the union. Thus, everything composite must be held together by another, and that conserving power is God.

    12. Hey Bill, does the actuality that constitutes an active causal power need to be conserved in being as well? For whatever things that impart motion by their essence, eg fire heating, God would impart both existence to its substance and causal action simultaneously as He gives rise to it in its entirety. And for any further active power down the chain, eg hot water cooking an egg, God sustains it too.

    13. Bill,

      "Thus, everything composite must be held together by another, and that conserving power is God."

      Yes, but not directly. It seems as if you are still missing the point? In both 1 and 2, God is the conserving power that is required for the existence of any contingent beings at any moment. But in 1 God does that indirectly, and in 2 God does that directly for each separate substance, and no substance (other than God) ever sustains another substance in existence. The issue is whether God's creation/conservation of every contingent things is direct or indirect. In other words, the issue is whether there can be any contingent co-creators in reality.

      "For example, a cell, among other things, is composed of a membrane, cytoplasm and a nucleus. A cell’s actuation is thus dependent on all three if it remains a cell. Remove (annihilate) the cytoplasm, and you destroy the cell. Water is a composite of hydrogen and oxygen. Destroy either, you no longer have water. Any break in a per se chain destroys the effect from the break forward. "

      Yes, but notice that I was talking about substances, not just any thing. The example is God annihilating a substance Y. The cytoplasm is not a substance in the cell. The hydrogen and the oxygen are not substances in water.
      But if some substance Y is kept in existence by another substance X, in a per se series that traces back to God (as is the case in any per se series), God can only annihilate Y by ALSO annihilating X. But if God is the direct sustained of both, God can annihilate Y without having to annihilate X.

      All I want to know is why God would have to directly and separately conserve every single substance in existence at every moment, as opposed to God indirectly conserving every substance in existence at every moment.

      The best answer I can come up with is the creatio ex nihilo one. Aquinas seems to think that to conserve any substance in being the cause has to give/make Esse ex nihilo, which would require infinite power.
      My problem with that is I don't see why the Esse of every substance must be made ex nihilo. Perhaps only the Esse of the first contingent substances (if there are "first" contingent substances) that God made would have to have been made ex nihilo, assuming that God cannot change. But what about any posterior contingent substances? Why is it that every contingent substance has to be created ex nihilo?

      Another problem I have with that is this: assuming the Esse of substances is created ex nihilo, wouldn't the same happen with the creation of any Form? And yet Aquinas seems to accept that finite substances cause the Forms of other things, including accidental forms. Wouldn't accidental forms also be made ex nihilo? I'd like some clarification on that.

      Until then, I believe that God only indirectly conserves every contingent being in existence at every moment, and that there might be some co-creators among contingent things.

    14. "X does not have the power to actualize its own existence, since it is not pure act."
      Real Xs are already fully actualized in their existential aspect, which accounts for existential inertia.

      If X exists at t1, and later X continues to exist at t2, then that is no change in the existential aspect of X, therefore no changer, no sustainer, no actualizer is called for to account for the non-change of X in its existential aspect.

      If X were to change from existing to not existing then there would be a changer called for to account for the observed change of X existing to X not existing.

      Feser has these obvious and elementary facts of logic and physics completely backwards.

      Feser asserts that material would spontaneously change itself from existing to not existing, and would simply blink out of existence if it were not for the continuous action of the first changer, the first mover, the first sustainer.

      Feser asserts that there is an invisible, scientifically undetectable, being that is continuously changing everything in the universe moment to moment in just the right way as to counteract the natural tendencies of all Xs to spontaneously change themselves from existing to not existing, all continuously in just the right way as to give us the appearance of no change in the existential aspect of material.

      Thomism requires some very strange inversions of logic, but this notion of a first changer to account for no change is perhaps the most outlandish notion in Thomism.

    15. @Journey 516,

      I’m not certain whether you’re asking a question or making a statement. I agree that God sustains all being along every chain.

    16. Hi, Atno. I’m not really trying to talk past you. I think I understand the distinction between direct and indirect. I’ll try again to explain myself. You write:

      Yes, but not directly. It seems as if you are still missing the point?... Yes, but notice that I was talking about substances, not just any thing. The example is God annihilating a substance Y. The cytoplasm is not a substance in the cell. The hydrogen and the oxygen are not substances in water.

      I was using a cell and water to illustrate the point. Recall I referred back to Aquinas’ hand, stick and rock. The human being, of which a hand is a part, is a substance. The stick and rock are substances. Each of these substances are composites of form and matter. Focusing on the stick, remove its form and it ceases to exist. Remove its matter and it ceases to exist. What holds them together? God. Substance conservation comes directly from God. The forms are in God, so they do not qualify as nothing.

      But if some substance Y is kept in existence by another substance X, in a per se series that traces back to God (as is the case in any per se series), God can only annihilate Y by ALSO annihilating X. But if God is the direct sustained of both, God can annihilate Y without having to annihilate X.

      Help me to capture your point with an analogy. How does one substance keep another substance in existence if God is the direct cause of both? Water helps to keep fish in existence, for fish need water to breathe. Annihilate water and fish will die. God would thus have to create another way for fish to breathe if He is the direct cause of both. Absent that, the annihilation of one entails the destruction of the other. You allege that there are at least two ways for God to be the per se cause of all things (not just substances). The standard per se series makes God the indirect cause of certain things whereas the other option makes God the direct cause of everything. All I am saying is that God is the direct cause of everything under Option 1 because He holds all composites of form/matter, essence/existence, etc. together. I see no point in the causal chain that can exist without God’s direct conservation.

    17. Hi Atno this is johannes y k hui.

      You wrote:
      “The thing is there are at least two ways for God to be a per se cause of all things: (1) God directly and per se conserves X at t, and X directly and per se conserves Y at t. So God does conserve Y per se at t, but only indirectly - by means of being the direct per se conserving cause of X at t. (2) God directly and per se conserves X at t, and God directly and per se conserves Y at t, etc… If the world is as depicted in (1), and Y is directly caused by X, then in order to annihilate Y, God will also have to annihilate X. Y exists because of X, and X exists because of God. God is an INDIRECT per se cause of Y, and as such he can annihilate Y by ceasing to conserve X. He must annihilate X in order to annihilate Y.”

      Think of this concrete example, using the terminology of “condition” rather than “cause”:
      Coffee beverage’s existence is conditional on the simultaneous existence of water (water is only one of the various conditions for the existence of coffee; example of another condition needed for coffee beverage’s existence is coffee powder) while water’s existence is conditional on the simultaneous existence of the hydrogen atoms bonded with oxygen atoms, and so on:

      coffee beverage < water < hydrogen atoms < …

      God can cease the existence of the coffee beverage in my cup by removing all the water from my cup (eg via evaporation). What is left in my cup would no longer be coffee beverage but only dry coffee residue (dry coffee residue is not coffee beverage).

      Notice this: God does not need to destroy water in order to bring an end to the existence of coffee beverage in my cup. God can simply remove the water from my cup (eg via evaporation which turns the water in liquid state to gaseous state) and the coffee beverage in my cup would cease to exist.


      johannes y k hui

    18. johannes,
      "God does not need to destroy water in order to bring an end to the existence of coffee beverage in my cup."
      The Thomistic contention, often stated by Dr. Feser, is that absent the sustaining action by the first mover, the first sustainer, the first changer, all material objects in the universe would blink out of existence altogether, not simply be moved out of a coffee cup to some other location.

      Feser has this completely backwards.

      There is no call for a first changer to account for no change.

      Existential inertia is the observed fact of the universe. We account for existential inertia with the very simple fact no changer is called for to account for no change.

      If X exists at t1 and later X exists at t2 that is no change in the existence of X, therefore we don't need a changer to account for no change in the existence of X.

      Done. That's it. Simple. All the Thomistic gnashing about per se sustaining and all the rest is just superfluous gibberish.

      Things continue to exist without any call for any assistance in that continued existence because continued existence is no change in existence and there is no call for a changer to assist in no change.

      How simple is that?

    19. @StardustyPsyche,

      You must be desperately weak in your "faith" because you just repeat and repeat without making any sense 😏

      "Aquinas cited examples of composite objects and asserted such objects could not move themselves. Aquinas was wrong"

      I explained how "rockets" etcetera change from potential to act and do not change by themselves. You ignored this.

      Electrons bouncing off of one another are not moving themselves, as I explained, but you ignore and repeat. "It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e, that it should move itself" covers your supposed "third choice" because electron A is not moved by electron A but by electron B, so it is not moving itself. You ignored and repeated. I hate to say it, but you are just not as deep and wise as Aquinas. Not even close. 😏

      "The Thomistic contention, often stated by Dr. Feser, is that absent the sustaining action by the first mover, the first sustainer, the first changer, all material objects in the universe would blink out of existence altogether, not simply be moved out of a coffee cup to some other location."

      Not relevant here, either to the comment by johannes you are replying to, or to your anti-Aquinas frenzy in general.

      "How simple is that?"

      Very simple when you are changing the subject and ignoring the comment by johannes. I think that with a little polishing you could develop this technique of jumping the track like this to a good comedy routine. 🤣

      Tom Cohoe

  27. For scruples you may want to read this

  28. Recently reading philosophical arguments concerning Styrofoam and whether it would qualify as a true substantial form made by humans leads me to the following question. As the old saying goes that only God can make a tree (i.e., substantial forms) whereas humans only make artifacts with accidental forms, I wonder whether we are ourselves intrinsic generators of substantial forms. By that I mean, do certain bodily excretions--blood, sweat, tears, urine, etc.--count as true substantial forms rather than mere accidental forms/aggregates of water mixed with other elements? My understanding of the philosophical composition of these various things is not sufficient to draw a firm conclusion and I would appreciate others' thoughts. I feel like they should count as substantial rather than accidental forms, and if so, then simply by being living animals we are participating in God's creative process through our entirely involuntary bodily generation of substantial forms.

    And while obviously these things are not unique to humans but shared by the lower animals, still it seems like another example of our bearing the image of God: we are endowed by Him with the potentiality of creating other substantial forms just as He created the substantial form of humanity. Like Socrates in Plato's Parmenides, I feel a little embarrassed to introduce such dingy things as bodily excretions into the philosophical discussion. But remembering that God deigned to become embodied like us, I nevertheless think it not unworthy to touch upon.

  29. Hi Dr. Feser. I was talking to a friend the other day about the immateriality of the intellect, and I passed him your paper "Kripke, Ross, and the Immaterial Aspects of Thought". He´s an atheist, and doesn´t believe anything survives the death of the body. He (suppossedly) read the paper and made the following obejection: Because we don´t actually know how the brain works, we can´t say for sure intellect is immaterial. Is this the demolishing objection he thinks is? Thank you very much.

    1. No, it's not. But as a simple rejoinder, ask him which premise of Feser's argument he denies and how this particular rejoinder is supposed to undermine said premise.

    2. Ed point about matter being necessarily indeterminate concerns matter-as-such, so saying that a particular chunk of it just is diferent seems really a appeal to magic. Either the premise is true or not.

    3. Pertusato,
      Is running immaterial? Can one have a kilogram of running? What is running made of?

      The answer is simple. Running is simply an identifiable set of processes of material. When material progresses through time in certain recognizable ways we label those processes of material "running".

      When material progresses through time in other certain recognizable ways we call that "intellect".

      Intellect does not have an existence independent of material, rather, when material progresses through time in certain recognizable ways we label those processes as "intellect".

  30. One problem I've had with William Lane Craig's approach to Natural Theology is, what I'm going to call, the "Connection Problem". (I recognized this as a potential issue for Craig's approach, before I had ever heard about Classical Theism).

    Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Craig's standard arguments in Natural Theology are all valid (i.e. Kalam, Teleological, Moral, and Ontological arguments). Even if we grant that these are all good arguments, why should we assume that they all point towards the same Being?

    (Appealing to Ockham's Razor to solve this, feels almost like a cop out. It doesn't seem to address the problem).

    For example, there doesn't seem to be any justification for why the Creator (from the Kalam) is metaphysically ultimate. Someone could object to Craig's argument by giving a counter view, that there exists 2 eternal beings; one of them is the contingent creator, and the other is the Metaphysical Ground of existence. Besides appealing to Ockham's Razor, there doesn't seem to be any reason (from what I can see) that Craig could give as a good response.

    From what I can tell (I don't know if this is correct), it seems as if Divine Simplicity is what unites the arguments of Natural Theology. It's as if Divine Simplicity is the North star of Natural Theology.
    If someone rejects DS, then it appears as if that person would have a hard (if not impossible) time showing that the arguments all point towards the same Being.

    For those who have studied Classical Theism longer than I have, is this a valid criticism/concern?

    1. Dr. Craig does adress the problem here:

      So, his way of connecting the Beings would be either the ontological argument or biblical revelation.

      Now, most do not find the ontological argument convincing and biblical revelation likely would not bother someone who is offering your objection, so yea, that seems a good point.

      I remember trying before to power up Craig cosmological arguments with St. Thomas point that to create ex nihilo ine needs infinite power, but i dont remember if i could show all the divine atributes while not appealing to my metaphysical commitements, which Craig aproach does not want to do.

    2. One should note that while each Way concludes with some variation of
      “ and this we call God, ”Aquinas did not intend the Five Ways to be demonstrations of a uniquely Christian God. In fact, he warns against attempts
      to prove, for instance, that God is triune (three persons but one being, as
      Christians affi rm), since such arguments, he explains, will fall short and
      lead unbelievers to scoff (see his Summa contra gentiles, Book 1, Chapter
      9, paragraph 2). Furthermore, Aquinas did not take the Five Ways to show
      that this thing we call “ God ”is perfect, good, immutable, eternal, powerful,
      knowledgeable, or even that there is just one such thing. As a consequence,
      some common criticisms of the Ways –for instance, that they do not demonstrate an omnipotent being –clearly miss the mark. Aquinas goes on later
      to devote many pages to whether the thing we call “ God ”in the Five Ways
      is omnipotent. And the same is true for the other abovementioned attributes.
      Rather, Aquinas ’intent in the Five Ways is to show that there is something -
      or - other that, for instance, causes things but is itself uncaused, or something
      that is necessary and does not have that necessary existence from another.
      In fact, he does not argue that the Five Ways conclude to the same thing
      –rather than fi ve different things –until later in the Summa (Part 1,
      Question 11, Article 3, the response)


    4. Craig takes on your question here. In some of his books, which I have seen at the library, he goes into that question in detail.

    5. WCB


      Divine simplicity has its roots in the metaphysics of Parmenides. Nothing comes from nothing, so something has always existed. Is it one thing or many? Parmenides answers one. And change is impossible, inspiring Zeno and his paradoxes.
      Plotinus in his Sixth Eneade, Nineth Tracate accepts Parmenides. The underlying arche (Plotinus does not use that word) emanates all else. Including God. Who is not the arche. By the time of Clement this arche is simple, one thing as per Parmenides, but now becomes the arche.

      All of this is speculation. Without evidence that developed over centuries.

      There is no real reason to accept Parmenide's claim that only one thing exists or change is impoosible. Or that as per Plotinus, it is the arche that all else emantes from, or that this simple thig is the simple God without parts of Clement.

      Natural religion comes from Plato. In his "Laws - Booke X" he tries to prove God exists. His argumentss are explicitly aimed at atheists.


  31. In your recent post on Pope Francis' opposition to capital punishment, you write, "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."
    There's an argument for the death penalty that has always seemed right to me that it should be defended as lifetime imprisonment is soul-destroying in a way that makes it much crueler (not that this is the only reason I'd be in favour of the death penalty - I just think that one compelling reply to the problem of the unjustly executed is that innocent people spending their whole lives in prison with no hope of ever leaving is even worse (and I don't think the possibility that time will reveal some to be innocent later entirely refutes this).) Even if technically the death penalty is a greater punishment as it deprives the criminal of life, which is more fundamental than any other right, is there not a case to be made that lifetime imprisonment is more brutal and undesirable, to the extent that it constitutes gratuitous and thus unjustified persecution?

    1. Hi Anon,

      If you were going to be punished with one or the other, which would you choose?

      Obviously, the morality of the two punishments isn't subjective, but that question is probably a helpful one. I assume most people are going to choose to live. I would. I can follow God's will from a prison cell. I can love others. I can pray, worship, offer right sacrifice, etc. I can live a good life, in other words, if we keep in mind that "good" for the Christian is in reference to God's will and not in reference to a secular idea of good, which is mostly defined in terms of freedom of the will, material goods, and access to pleasure.

      Peaceful days,


    2. Hi Jordan - thanks for your reply. It's true that I'd choose to live, but I don't think that that's necessarily the rational choice. I think our inclination to do so rests on our attachment to life rather than on a logical consideration of interests. I think part of the issue is that it is assumed that the right to life is the most fundamental of all the rights, as without it, you can't have any other rights - thus taking it away is the greatest infringement / punishment possible. But most people would grant that killing, say, a cow painlessly (or even not painlessly, perhaps) is morally justifiable, at least if it's for a purpose, but that torturing said cow is not. Thus I think some rights can be in a sense more fundamental than the right to life, and I would say that lifetime imprisonment constitutes a kind of torture.

      The point you make about living as a Christian in prison is a good one, and it might be enough to sway me personally into thinking that the rational choice is to go on living. But it still seems like, for the vast majority of people - i.e. non-religious people or non-practicing believers etc. - it's better for them to be dead than rotting in prison for the rest of their lives with no hope of release on the table.

      Thanks again.

  32. Is Kripke's "Quadition" argument (as employed by James Ross), which proposes immateriality of mind is shown by the belief that addition will work no matter what the numerical inputs, merely an argument that induction in general shows the immateriality of mind? Or does the "quadition" scenario add something that an appeal to mere induction doesn't?

  33. Dante Alighieri got off lightly when it comes to some modern commentators. As Gilson rightly observed, it is astounding how so many "experts" can associate Dante with Thomism, when Dante's De monarchia spelt the end of the Thomistic worldview. In this work, Dante put up civil society as a self-contained entity, all of whose ends were secular. He entertained a parallel religious society to take care of spiritual ends.This would have been the end of the Christian West since late antiquity - where civil society's ultimate end was always beyond itself, in the spiritual ends of the individuals to which it is ordered. Thankfully, the book was opposed by the Dominicans, burned in the public square and later placed on the Index until the nineteenth century. Dante postulated a secular civil society as its own absolute end, but without "atheism". This has always been the impossible conservative dream...

  34. Anyone enjoying the Hart-Rooney Universalist debate? Hart and his followers losing the rag over Rooney's persistence and tenacity, and his refusal to be intimidated by endless personal abuse. Hart even hinted at suing Rooney for quoting from one of his substack sub-only pieces. Hilarious.

  35. WCB

    Thanks for the reply, Anonymous.

    Can you point me to any papal encyclicals (or general writings) regarding the topic?

    Too much out there to list in a combox. But here is a report that quotes some important past papal pronouncements.

    Pope Francis has made many statements on today's economic issues. Including crtitiques of trickle down economics, income inequality and much more Google for that. Pope Francis has been the most outspoken pope on abuses of capitalism ever.


    1. Yes, and Pope John XXlll said in 1963 in Pacem et Terris

      Beginning our discussion of the rights of man, we see that every person has the RIGHT to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are suitable for the proper development of life; these are primarily food, clothing, shelter, rest, MEDICAL CARE and finally the necessary social services. Therefore a human being also has the right to security in cases of sickness, inability to work, widowhood, old age, unemployment, or in any other case in which one is deprived of the means of subsistence through no fault of one’s own. (#11)
      I capitalized the above. There are Catholic conservatives today who do not believe that health care is right. Two years after that encyclical was published Medicare was passed..

    2. Some of them are heavily influenced by Edmund Burke, who taught that the natural rights of men (and natural law itself) have nothing to do with civil society; that the rights of all humans living in society originate from society itself. This proposition was knocked out of the ring by Pius IX in the Syllabus.

    3. That health care is a right does not entail that the right has to be provided on this or that way, that is a prudential question that will vary from situation to situation.

    4. WCB

      Matthew 25
       And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
      41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

      Europen nations have systems that gurantee healthcare for all. The U.S. does not . Medicare For All should be implemented. It would be the Christian way.

      I am down here in Texas where our right winged state government refused to open a Medicare exchange. Texas leads the nation in uninsured citizens.

      In a nation, supoosedly the richest in the world, a single child suffering because that child's parents cannot afford insurance is not acceptable.


    5. WCB

      When FDR started Social Security, the conservatives howled and shrieked. Socialism, communism, dictatorship!

      When Medicare was established, the conservatives once again shrieked socialism, dictatorship!

      When Medicaid was established, the same old tiresome cries of socialism, dictatorship!

      The GOP has been fighting civilized government for decades. All these programs passed and the dire predictions of America becoming a socialist dictatorship did not happen as they claimed it would.

      80 years of crying "Wolf!".

      Donald Trump proposed 4 yearly budgets, each one would have deeply slashed Social Security and Medicare. Medicare cut by hundreds of billions of dollars. Trump wants to run again.

      I keep waiting for some cable media commentator to shove a microphone at him and ask him about these budget plans.

      Listen to the popes, not the conservatives of the GOP on these issues.


    6. "When Medicaid was established, the same old tiresome cries of socialism, dictatorship!

      The GOP has been fighting civilized government for decades. All these programs passed and the dire predictions of America becoming a socialist dictatorship did not happen as they claimed it would."

      Just because you and a number of others have gotten used to coercive collectivism, or may even personally benefited from it, does not mean that it has not had the effect about which we were warned.

      An rotting albatross hung around one's neck does not cease to decay just because you have gotten used to the stench, or because you have managed to mitigate it somewhat by keeping one's face to the wind.

  36. What are some good biographies on Aquinas's life?

    I've read summaries of his life from books that explore his philosophy/theology, but I'm hoping to find some that primarily focus on his life.

  37. This one is the newest and best. Dr Feser knows Dr Prudlo. A brilliant man, and he was kind enough to answer my emails.

  38. WCB


    "If Feser labels this as "deism", I don't know, but that's what I'm talking about.

    George Berkely. Idealism. Existence is not material. Things exist because they are perceived. How then do things not perceived by us exist? Because God perceives all. Can God decide to not perceive something evil? Making that thing disappear?

    Immanence. Things persist because of God. Not really deism.

    Maya. All is illusion. We exit only as thoughts in the mind of Brahma. Eastern theology.


  39. Archbishop Siffi (Vigano) (16-2-230, "Let us not forget that rulers are not the owners of the State and the masters of the citizens, just as the Pope and the Bishops are not the owners of the Church and the masters of the faithful.... it is time to drive them out of their positions...". The Kwasniewski Gallicanist doctrine at work. The Church is not a human society without a soul, a collective ordered towards the ends of its individuals. The Gallicanists need to read Mystici Corporis and Vatican I. Pope Francis is far more tolerant of these people than he is of the German bishops. Too tolerant.

  40. Can someone help understand the unconditional goodness of self-control?

    Unlike justice, courage, and wisdom which stand on their own merits, self-control seems to be conditional on you being bad. Something about you needs to be controlled, because if left unchecked, it is an evil and destructive element. So why not seek to destroy that evil and destructive element, rather than keep it under control. It's as if someone's offering you a miracle cure for HIV to free you from AIDS, but instead of taking it, you choose an antiviral regimen for the rest of your life.

    But in another sense, self-control does seem to be an unconditional good, because you never hear of horror stories of someone coming to ruin because he exercised too much self-control.

    How do I resolve this logical paradox?

    1. Self-Control isn't necessary because something about you is *bad* per se, but rather because something in you is *dangerous.* The appetites are precisely of this nature. Followed inordinately, they take on the character of gluttony or lust. Under the control of Reason, they can be transformed into something that can lead to a nutritious diet and a happy marriage - ie, good things. For this reason, it is better that they be controlled than eliminated.

      In this respect, the appetites are less like a disease and more like a pit bull. Raised poorly, they become aggressive monsters. Raised well, and they can be loyal friends.

  41. EmpoweredBeing,

    Here is what St Thomas has to say about continence.

    Basically continence is sort of virtuous, but it would be better to develop the corresponding virtue and therefore not desire the vice one is refraining onself from.

  42. What are the biggest diferences between the augustinian-thomistic realism about abstract objects and the cappadocian one?

    From what i can grasp it seems that on the first one the forms are part of God essence and on the other they are part of God energies, but the distinction seems hard to get thanks to the lack of clarity of what exactly the energies are and how they relate to the divine essence, so a good ressource in that would be cool.

  43. Conservatism: Jonathan Culbreath ("Revolution and reaction"), “A war must be waged to preserve the universal heritage of mankind against those forces of modern barbarism”.
    Catholicism: Saint Augustine, “Woe to thee, thou river of human custom! Who shall stop thy course? How long will it be before thou art dried up?”

    Conservatism: Symmachus’ speech defending paganism, “We ask peace for our native, indigenous gods… The Great Mystery cannot be approached by one road…. the fatal genii are divided among nations. Utility should decide what the gods of man should be. Since all reason is in darkness…”
    Catholicism: Saint Ambrosius’ reply to Symmachus, “he who would be loyal to the true God must have no indulgence for the gods that are demons”

    Conservatism: (Culbreath approvingly cites de Maistre), “The whole earth, perpetually steeped in blood, is nothing but a vast altar upon which all that is living must be sacrificed without end, without measure, without pause, until the consummation of things, until evil is extinct”. This is de Maistre’s belief that all suffering, of the good and evil alike, is expiatory.
    Catholicism: not all suffering has supernatural value. History is not an irrational process before which we surrender, but the result of individual human decisions.
    Culbreath labels himself a Catholic theocrat and preaches esoterism in the tradition of the theosophist, mason and Aztec, Joseph de Maistre.
    What an ideology. “How long will it be before thou art dried up?!”

    1. C'mon, tell us what you really think about conservatism. Don't hold back, now! Stop being mealy-mouthed about it.

      The Great Mystery cannot be approached by one road….

      Gotta say: this is not even slightly in line with conservatism. This is pure, out-and-out modernist liberalism of the clearest stripe.

    2. The conservatives are smells and bells modernists. Rather than subject you to mealy-mouthedness let the conservatives speak.
      Burke: "as we have scarcely ever the same certainty in the one that we have in the other, I would, unless the truth were evident indeed, hold fast to peace". The truth in question was the Trinity.

      "Had we lived an hundred and fifty years ago, I should have been as earnest and anxious as anybody for this sort of abjuration [of Catholicism]”.

      "you [Parliament] must define what that Scripture is". For Burke, civil society and the Church are one thing. The Church exists and is generated by society to help attain secular ends.

      No subjection of society to natural law: "because we [Parliament] exercise part of the supreme power… No, till society fall into a state of dissolution, they cannot be accountable for their acts"

      No natural law in civil society: "“the happiness or misery of mankind, estimated by their feelings and sentiments, and not by any theories of their rights, is, and ought to be, the standard for the conduct [of government"

      "“But if he disputes, as he does, the authority of an act of Parliament, let him state to me that law to which he means to be subject, or any law which he knows that will justify his actions. I am not authorized to say that I shall, even in that case, give up what is not in me to give up, because I represent an authority of which I must stand in awe". This secularist absolutism never has to justify how it represents anything beyond itself.

      Pope Leo XIII wrote a good encyclical, Libertas, which trashes all these ideas.

  44. Hi Ed,

    I just wanted to know if you were planning a response to Professor Francesca Stavrakpoulou's bestselling book, "God: An Anatomy." Cheers.

  45. How does act reduce potentiality to act? What is potential "isn't there", that is, I cannot eat a potential banana, I cannot sit on a chair that is potentially here, but actually there. I seems I must act on something actual to elicit the potential. But then we're passing the buck: how does acting on a actuality cause the actualization of a potential? And how does acting on an actuality change that actuality into a potentiality (once the chair is here, it is no longer there, but it can be).

    1. There are different kind of changes. Changes of an existing thing is one. Generation and corruption is another.

      Regarding the first:

      Act-potency refers to what is inherent in a thing. No thing, no act-potency.
      So it does not refer to non-existent bananas or chairs.

      how does acting on a actuality cause the actualization of a potential?

      An existing brown chair can potentially be red. I can change that potency to act by painting it red.

      And how does acting on an actuality change that actuality into a potentiality

      Once I've painted the chair red it could potentially be another color.

      Regarding the second:

      Bananas and chairs come into existence by way of other things, so one could say a banana tree has the potential to produce a banana, but that potential resides in the tree not a banana that does not yet or may never exist.

    2. Thanks, but I don't see an explanation, only idem per idem.

      Let's use another example. Let's say I have an ice cube. This ice cube is potentially liquid water. The only reason ice can become liquid is because it has the potential to be that, and we say we can actualize that potential by acting on the ice in a way that does that.

      Okay, great. But the question is this: how does act actualize potential? In this case, I can apply heat to the ice cube. But the application of heat is to the actual ice cube, not to the potential liquid water. I cannot act on what is not already in act, right? Causally speaking, heat has the power to actualize the potential to be liquid water in the ice. But how does this occur?

      It seems as if two things are happening, viz., a.) the act (heat) that acts on an actuality (ice) and b.) something else within the mutating substance that involves some causal relation between the actuality of ice and the potentiality of liquid water. But this seems to pass the buck because now we must ask how it is possible for the actuality of ice (in conjunction with the actuality of heat) to actualize the potential of liquid water.

    3. Anonymous,

      Okay, great. But the question is this: how does act actualize potential? In this case, I can apply heat to the ice cube. But the application of heat is to the actual ice cube, not to the potential liquid water. I cannot act on what is not already in act, right? Causally speaking, heat has the power to actualize the potential to be liquid water in the ice. But how does this occur?

      You are applying heat to an actual ice cube but part of the nature of that ice cube is it's potential to become water under the right conditions rather than say sprouting wings and flying which is not part of it's nature.

      b.) something else within the mutating substance that involves some causal relation between the actuality of ice and the potentiality of liquid water. But this seems to pass the buck because now we must ask how it is possible for the actuality of ice (in conjunction with the actuality of heat) to actualize the potential of liquid water.

      Because the nature of ice is the actuality of ice but also the potency to be water. Heating the substance reduces that potential (which was part of the makeup of the ice) to act. There is more to a substance than the actual state it happens to be in at any particular time.

      I think you are missing that things have natures.

  46. Hi Dr. Feser,

    Would you consider doing a "Mathematics Roundup" in the future?

    (i.e. all of the posts you've created about the philosophy of mathematics, and related subjects).

  47. Cheese. It's an open thread so I just thought I'd say Cheese.

  48. George Weigel, writing in First Things (8-3-23), substantiates the alliance between Gallicanists of left and right. Both he (a defender of the new liturgy and other changes since the Council) and Gallicanism in general, agree on breaking the constitution of the Church. With delight, Weigel quotes Lumen Gentium “[Bishops’] power, which they personally exercise in Christ’s name, is proper, ordinary and immediate” [rather than the traditional view - one source of jurisdiction, of which the Pope has the plenitude – Vatican I]. Lumen Gentium erects a new juridical power in the Church alongside that of the Pope, that of Bishops. LG then says it must be in union with the Pope to be legitimate... However, it clearly suggests that the Church embodies subsidiarity, like civil societies, which are merely constituted by their members, and have no soul or mind (Tolkein).

    Weigel coincides with the “Traditionalist” Gallicanists like Kwasniewski and Vigano, that Pope Francis acts against their concept of the Church by intervening in bishops’ application of Traditionis custodes. However, although the Pope should not be doing this (and his model Paul VI should never have banned the Tridentine Mass in the first place), the liturgy is under his jurisdiction, firstly and properly.

    What LG suggests, and Weigel, Kwasniewski, Vigano, Siffi and the other Gallicanists are breaking down the Church’s emergency exits to achieve, is de Maistre’s Conciliarism. Whoever wants 100% vaccination against Conservatism should read his little work “On the Pope”. Senselessly labelled “ultramontanism”, it asserts that only a Council presided by the Pope can be a general Council but, once in session, the whole affair is above him. A bit like Charles I and the Long Parliament.

    Even worse, he declares the Pope infallible, essentially, because he is a “sovereignty”, and like all civil societies and their leadership, is divine and infallible. How about this for logic: Whatever cannot be questioned is absolute and infallible; the decrees of Popes and other civil sovereigns cannot be questioned: therefore they are infallible! Is this just an excitable Continental? Read Burke’s speeches on the Acts of Uniformity, Petition of the Unitarian Society, and at the Hastings trial: civil society is absolute, divine, yet answers to nothing but itself. Work that out.

  49. I have some critical questions about predestination and reprobation as as relates to Thomism specifically.

    Part 1

    According to Aquinas,
    "Even if by a special privilege their predestination were revealed to some, it is not fitting that it should be revealed to everyone; because, if so, those who were not predestined would
    despair; and security would beget negligence in the predestined." (ST, Q.23, A.1, ad.4)

    This is a dubious. I agree that reprobate persons would despair if they knew that they are among the reprobate, i.e. if they infallibly knew that they will damned. Whereas, when doubt is allowed to exist, (“Maybe I'll be damed, maybe I won't) then despair can be avoided.

    The reprobate cannot know through natural human reason that they are reprobate. God would have to reveal to them their impending doom for them to know that, in fact, they will go to Hell.

    Why should God not reveal it to them?

    “Because they would despair’”

    So what if they do? They are going to Hell; “not despairing” won’t save them.

    To suggest that despair is a danger to their souls is rather superfluous. There is no hope for their souls to begin within in this paradigm.

  50. Part 2

    “Despair is a sin.”

    The point is that despair or no despair, they will be condemned to Hell, because there are other sins (e.g. vices, hatred of neighbor) of which they are guilty and for which they will be justly punished.

    “Out of mercy, God spares them from committing the sin of despair.”

    Out of mercy, God can spare a person from living a long life, since the longer one lives, the more sins one commits. I am sure that the 50 year old pious missionary has accumulated more sins than the 15 year old pagan.

    But is it wrong for God to preserve a person’s life so that he lives to be a 100 (with all the concomitant sins that accompany living a long life)? Would we argue that God should instead take his life sooner than later, sparing him not only from committing a multitude of sins but also some temporal punishment due to sin (“time in Purgatory”)?

    If he can tolerate other sins, why not the sin of the "despairing reprobate"?

    And what about justice? If God gives a man to know that he is among the reprobate, the man will despair, and therefore die a mortal sinner. The sin of despair provides one more reason
    for condemning a person to Hell. And punishing sin is an act of justice. Yes?

    “But that would mean that God occasioned the sin of despair”.

    Well, is it unheard of for God to occasion a disgrace? (pun intended)

    Exodus 9:12, “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron…”

    To my way of thinking, if Thomistic reprobation is true, it is a mystery that God does not reveal to the reprobate that they are reprobate. I am not saying that God must or that he is morally obligated; I am saying that it is curious that he doesn’t.

    But perhaps it is becauseif the reprobate despaired, then they would perceive a license to sin (“I’m going to Hell anyway, so why not do whatever I want!") and reek havoc in the world with the number of sins they would commit. So, wishing to constrain
    sin, God does not reveal to them their future damnation.

    Paradoxically, though, despair being a sin only makes sense in a context in which there is hope for heaven and trust in God's mercy is required of us. It would be contrary to reason for the reprobate - if they infallibly knew that they will be damned - to have hope.

    So, they wouldn't be sinning if they despaired, would they?

    1. because, if so, those who were not predestined would despair

      I am not sure how St. Thomas meant this, but it seems to me that "despair" is used in 2 senses. In the first, a person who has not certain knowledge, by his action ceases to hope in their salvation, and thus "believes in" their damnation as if they had sure and justified knowledge of it. But the will to leave off hope is a sin against the gift and (theological) virtue of hope, and is ultimately contrary to charity, because God desires the salvation of each.

      If they had certain and justified knowledge of their damnation (by direct divine revelation), they would not be rejecting the gift of hope, they would have no hope by believing the truth revealed: in essence, the gift would no longer be offered. This would seem to be the condition of despair but not the sinful action of despair, or so it seems to me.

      But underneath that, the hypothesis that they have sure and justified knowledge of their damnation (through direct divine revelation) really seems to be an oxymoronic hypothesis: God positively predestines the good, but He does not positively reprobate the damned, he permits it by permitting their sins. He wills their salvation (in regard to his antecedent will), and this seems to imply that he offers the gift of grace to them. That they do not correspond to that grace is their doing, not His.

      It would seem to be a contradictory condition that a person could, at one and the same time, be in a state of hope (and thus have the theological virtues) AND believe fully in a divine revelation that you are damned. But it would also be a contradictory condition that God could (at one and the same time) offer both the gift of the grace (including hope) AND the certain knowledge of reprobation. But we believe that God does offer the gift of grace to all, since he wills the salvation of all.

      Hence it would seem that the hypothetical supposition harbors a hidden contradiction. And so ultimately the reason God does not reveal to the future reprobate his future as certain is the very fact that He is wills their salvation (in offering grace).

      As always when speaking of grace & predestination: there may be 3 or 4 heresies in the above, without my realizing it. I do not adhere to them, but accept the Church's teaching.

      In addition: while God can, by private revelation, tell a person he will be among the saved, private revelations are not confirmed by the Church and the person normally holds them as uncertain in some sense at least. For example, God's revelation might actually mean "you are in a state of grace, and if you remain as you have been doing, you will be saved, i.e. a conditional, "if". God told Jonah to warn Nineveh of their coming destruction, which he did: what Jonah did not recognize was that the prophecy was a conditional: if they do not repent. But they repented. I won't get into revelations exceed the usual conditions of uncertainty, other than to note that God's ways are mysterious, and that there are probably good providential reasons why God USUALLY DOESN'T reveal to a person he is predestined, and those reasons might route in and through some other self-contradictory reality if we considered Him to tell everyone who was predestined.

    2. I can think of two reasons to not say to the reprobate that they are screwed:

      1. The sin of despair you mentioned. They are heading to hell knowing or not, but by not despairing they will have a less worse soul and a little less sin, so their eternity will suck less.

      2. If the rebrobate knew that they are screwed them perhaps history would go in a direction that God does not want.

  51. @Cervantes.
    Perhaps it is better for liturgy to be left to diocesan bishops. They might be more "liberal" in permitting the extraordinary form than the Vatican.

    1. I doubt it. They mostly allowed the Tridentine Mass to continue undisturbed through inertia. When it was banned by Paul VI only a couple of bishops took the means to preserve this Mass, and they are still attacked by the Gallicanists who claim to like the old liturgy.

      The old Mass will continue now regardless. The damage done to the Church through full implementation of Gallicanism and Conciliarism would be incalculable, especially considering the state of the episcopacy. It would also be an attack on the definitions of Vatican I. There are not two jurisdictions in the Church. There is no subsidiarity. These things are human guarantees for human, temporal societies.
      The Church has never depended on such things.

  52. What are the best arguments against sedevacantism? And what do we make of the religious indifferentism of certain popes and saints? (for example; JPII kissing the Quran or Mother Theresa saying that we should help a muslim become a better muslim) Is sedevacantism a plausible explanation for that behavior?

    1. @ René López,

      Sedevacantism is a schismatic doctrine. However popes can and do make mistakes.

      If you had your choice - a Muslim becoming a better Muslim or not becoming a better Muslim - which would you choose? A better Muslim might more ardently seek truth. Seeking truth is the way to Christianity.

      Mother Teresa's answer was the inspired stuff of genius. She was asked by a reporter whether she was trying to convert people to Christianity. Had she said that she was, her answer would have caused her mission to the abandoned, the dying, the hungry ... to have been violently attacked and rejected, but it would have also been false because we cannot convert people. Only the individual sincerely and patiently seeking truth, with the light of God, chooses truth and converts. Mother Teresa's part was as an _exemplary_ Christian who inspired people to become better ... whatever. She gave a perfect answer. It could be published to the world in the hope that people would follow Jesus without causing riots and the rejection of her mission, and it was the right answer because we should always try to help people become better no matter what their nominal profession.

      When she died she was mourned by all sects and I believe that she was instrumental in the conversion of thousands of people.

      Tom Cohoe

    2. Thanks for your answer Tom. I think that the problem with Mother Theresa's answer is that, by hearing those claims, many people might think that they shouldn't warn others that they are on a path to hell by not joining the Catholic Church. What are your thoughts on the "extra ecclesiam nulla salus" dogma by the way?

      Regarding sedevacantism, I think that sedevacantists go too far in claiming that it's possible for the whole church hierarchy to just suddenly destroy itself by falling into heresy. But the Dimons, for example, claim that that is precisely the the end-times great apostasy that is prophesied in the apocalypse.

    3. @ René López,

      I cannot debate this now, so I will give a quick response and leave you the last word.

      According to my understanding, the part of the Church called The Church Triumphant is Heaven, so "extra ecclesiam nulla salus" can be simply taken to mean "There is no getting to Heaven without getting to Heaven".

      I also think telling people they will go to Hell unless they join the Catholic Church is aggressive and likely to inhibit conversion. Mother Teresa encouraged people by example.

      I think the politics of sedevacantism is the politics of schism.

      Finally, I think Jesus told us that end times would come without warning, like a thief in the night, only The Father knows.

      I leave you the last word.

      I don't really know anything anyway.


      Tom Cohoe

  53. More bricks for modern Gallicanism. Charles Coulombe has written in Crisis Magazine (10/3/23) against “ultramontanism”. Invoking the traditional West, he started off with the “Edict of Thessalonica… which made baptism passage into Roman citizenship as well as membership in the Church, Catholic Church and Catholic State were seen as distinct aspects of one Catholic body”.

    This is not the traditional view of collaboration between two distinct societies, but Burke’s dogma that they are identical: “An alliance is between two things that are in their nature distinct and independent, such as between two sovereign states. But in a Christian commonwealth the Church and the State are one and the same thing, being different integral parts of the same whole” (Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs). Coulombe provides no proof for his incredible affirmation that Theodosius made baptism additionally a civil citizenship ceremony. No civil society is part of the mystical body of Christ.

    Another Gallicanist brick: “opponents of papal politics as Dante could not be considered as other than faithful Catholics, regardless”. Dante was not a “political” opponent of the Pope of the day but a revolutionary who created a secularist theory in De monarchia, burned by the Church and placed on the Index.

    More bricks, in the form of anti-papal folklore “the pope chanting the Te Deum when news of the Battle of the Boyne came”. There is no evidence that any Te Deums were sung or bells rung at Saint Peter’s. Just folklore, like that “quote” from Pius IX: “Tradition? That’s me!”, repeated ad nauseam these days by modern Gallicanists. Rubbish.

    Cuthbert Butler’s work on Vatican I can get no further than this: “The Pope, it is said, upbraided him…[Cardinal Guidi] ‘Witnesses of tradition?’ said Pius; ‘there’s only one; that’s me’” Butler notes, “Of course, no one but Guido himself knew what actually passed. The above is cited from Dupanloup’s private journal by Mourret” (Butler, The Vatican Council). He was referring to Fernand Mourret’s Le Concile du Vatican. So this Gallicanist trump card ridiculing Pius IX and those who have a Catholic understanding of the Church is based on the Chinese whispers supposedly picked up by the liberal Cardinal Dupanloup!

    Finally, “it was the view of the pope as virtually the Oracle at Delphi that initially allowed Paul VI to alter so much [liturgically] with relatively little adverse reaction”. No, Vatican II, from a human point of view, crushed anti-liberal churchmen and gave “progressivists” carte blanche. The answer to “left wing” Gallicanism is not conservative Gallicanism. The answer is that of the bishop from modern Gaul so disliked by “traditionalist” Gallicanists today: “We have one demand of Peter, that he be Peter!”.

  54. This seems very harsh on Dante. He was a believer who accepted the Catholic Church as the guardian of divine revelation. He was only defending the traditional "two swords" idea. How can that be called secularism?

    1. It’s not harsh. We’re all sick (or should be) of artists who tire of the faith of the society they had the unbelievable luck to be born in. Dante proposed civil and religious societies with absolute, final ends, which could not be subordinated one to another. But Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that man’s goal in this life is not his final goal in this life. Unlike Aristotle (who did not consider an afterlife), for Aquinas the purpose of society was not for people to live virtuously but, by living virtuously in society, to obtain their end in the next life (De Regimine). Dante’s opposition to the papacy was not political but ideological. Gilson has rightly characterised his ideas as Averroistic. His not the Gelasian arrangement that had held since the Roman Empire at all, which recognised civil society's submission to spiritual principles and ends beyond it.

      Talking about glorification of civil society, Charles Coulombe has authored an article in OnePeterFive suggesting the anointing of kings as an “eighth sacrament”, though we all know there can’t be any more than the seven instituted by Christ. The anointing of kings was invented in the seventh century, in Spain. Forty years after King Wamba underwent it, the country was overrun by Muslims. The practice of anointing Monarchs stopped after Queen Isabel the Catholic. We can draw our own conclusions on the “necessity” Coulombe ascribes to it.

      Coulombe made the obligatory reference to the Old Testament. But the OT indicates that Israel was not a political model for us. In 1 Samuel 8:20: The Hebrews complained to Samuel saying “We must be like other nations, with a king to decide our quarrels…” Aquinas interprets it this way: “being indignant with them, so to speak, He [God] granted them a king, as is clear from His words to Samuel (1 Samuel 8:7): "They have not rejected thee, but Me, that I should not reign over them” (ST I-II, Q 105, i). What this implies is that “other nations” have “kings”, leaders who are not religious, but secular authorities.

      As Aquinas makes clear in De regimine and the ST, political authority comes from God but is conferred by society. He calls the monarch a “vice-regent” of the people. Societies are natural institutions, like families, that have been provided with natural means for their own founding and preservation. Coronations were invented by men to emphasise the fact that authority ultimately comes from God. But even if the moment someone became king was by convention his anointing, that action would have effect only because society had decided so. An Olympic swimming pool full of the contents of the Sainte Ampoule would not be enough to make someone not recognised by civil society and its laws a king. This is not a sacrament. The social theory of the Church (especially as expressed by Aquinas) is better adapted to late Antiquity and the Baroque period, the most triumphant in its history, than the Middle Ages.