Sunday, November 26, 2023

Ryle on microphysics and the everyday world

Science, we’re often told, gives us a description of the world radically at odds with common sense.  Physicist Arthur Eddington’s famous “two tables” example illustrates the theme.  There is, on the one hand, the table familiar from everyday experience – the extended, colored, solid, stable thing you might be sitting at as you read this.  Then there’s the scientific table – a vast aggregate of colorless particles in fields of force, mostly empty space rather a single continuous object, and revealed by theory rather than sensory perception.  What is the relationship between them?  Should we say, as is often done, that the first table is an illusion and only the second real?

Saturday, November 18, 2023

What is free speech for?

In a new article at Postliberal Order, I discuss the teleological foundations of, and limitations on, the right to free speech, as these are understood from the perspective of traditional natural law theory’s approach to questions about natural rights.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

All One in Christ at Public Discourse

At Public Discourse, John F. Doherty kindly reviews my book All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory.  From the review:

In Feser’s book, Catholics, other Christians, and even non-Christians will find much to help them confront CRT and the perennial challenges of living in a racially diverse society

Critical race theorists routinely use confusing, tough-to-pin-down logical fallacies.  Feser does us the service of laying these fallacies out methodically and succinctly

For anyone who knows nothing about CRT, All One in Christ is an excellent place to start.  It has a decidedly negative perspective on the movement, but Feser takes pains to be fair to his opponents.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

The Thomist's middle ground in natural theology

The Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition holds that knowledge must begin with sensory experience but that it can nevertheless go well beyond anything that experience could directly reveal.  Its empiricism is of a moderate kind consistent with the high ambitions of traditional metaphysics.  For example, beginning a posteriori with the fact that change occurs, it claims to be able to demonstrate the existence of a divine Prime Unmoved Mover.  Similarly demonstrable, it maintains, are the immateriality and immortality of the soul.

Two crucial components of this picture of human knowledge are the theses that concepts are irreducible to sensations and mental images, but can nevertheless be abstracted from imagery by the intellect.  As I have discussed before, a key difference between the Aristotelian-Thomistic position on the one hand and early modern forms of rationalism and empiricism on the other is that each of the latter kept one of these Aristotelian-Thomistic theses while rejecting the other.  Rationalism maintained the thesis that concepts are irreducible to sensations and mental images, but concluded that many or all concepts therefore could not in any way be derived from them.  Hence, rationalists concluded, many or all concepts must be innate.  Modern empiricism held on to the thesis that concepts derive from mental imagery, but concluded that they must not really be distinct from them.  Hence the modern empiricist tendency toward “imagism,” the view that a concept just is an image (or an image together with a general term).