Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Divine causality and human freedom

Is the conception of divine causality defended by classical theists like Aquinas (and which I defend in Five Proofs of the Existence of God) compatible with our having free will?  The reason they might seem not to be compatible is that for Aquinas and those of like mind, nothing exists or operates even for an instant without God sustaining it in being and cooperating with its activity.  The flame of a stove burner heats the water above it only insofar as God sustains the flame in being and imparts causal efficacy to it.  And you scroll down to read the rest of this article only insofar as God sustains you in being and imparts causal efficacy to your will.  But doesn’t this mean that you are not free to do otherwise?  For isn’t it really God who is doing everything and you are doing nothing?

Friday, March 9, 2018

The missing links

Feedspot has released its list of the Top 15 Christian Philosophy Blogs and Websites.  This blog is ranked at #1.  Thank you, Feedspot!

At Public Discourse, Fr. Nicanor Austriaco responds to Fr. Michael Chaberek’s book on Thomism and evolution.

At First Things, Matthew Rose on Christianity and the alt-right.

Philosophers Jonathan Ellis and Eric Schwitzgebel argue that philosophers are as prone to post-hoc rationalization as anyone else.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Carrier carries on

Richard Carrier has replied to my recent response to his critique of Five Proofs of the Existence of God, both in the comments section of his original post and in a new post.  “Feser can’t read,” Carrier complains.  Why?  Because – get this – I actually took the first six paragraphs of the section he titled “Argument One: The Aristotelian Proof” to be part of his response to the Aristotelian proof.   What was I thinking?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

It’s the latest open thread

It’s your opportunity once again to converse about anything that strikes your fancy.  From film noir to The Cars, Freud to cigars, set theory to dive bars.  As always, keep it civil, keep it classy, no trolling or troll-feeding. 

Previous open threads linked to here, if memory lane is your thing.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Hart on Five Proofs

At Church Life Journal, David Bentley Hart kindly reviews Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  From the review:

Edward Feser has a definite gift for making fairly abstruse philosophical material accessible to readers from outside the academic world, without compromising the rigor of the arguments or omitting challenging details… Perhaps the best example of this gift in action hitherto was his 2006 volume Philosophy of Mind: A Beginner’s Guide (at least, speaking for myself, I have both recommended it to general readers and used it with undergraduates, in either case with very happy results).  But this present volume is no less substantial an achievement

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Oxford Handbook of Freedom

My essay “Freedom in the Scholastic Tradition” appears in The Oxford Handbook of Freedom, edited by David Schmidtz and Carmen Pavel and just out from Oxford University Press.  The other contributors to the volume are Elizabeth Anderson, Richard Arneson, Ralf M. Bader, David Boonin, Jason Brennan, Allen Buchanan, Mark Bryant Budolfson, Piper L. Bringhurst, Kyla Ebels-Duggan, Gerald Gaus, Ryan Patrick Hanley, Michael Huemer, David Keyt, Frank Lovett, Fred D. Miller Jr., Elijah Millgram, Eddy Nahmias, Serena Olsaretti, James R. Otteson, Orlando Patterson, Carmen E. Pavel, Mark Pennington, Daniel C. Russell, David Sobel, Hillel Steiner, Virgil Henry Storr, Steven Wall, and Matt Zwolinski.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Carrier on Five Proofs

In an article at his blog, pop atheist writer Richard Carrier grandly claims to have “debunked!” (exclamation point in the original) Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  It’s a bizarrely incompetent performance.  To say that Carrier attacks straw men would be an insult to straw men, which usually bear at least a crude resemblance to the argument under consideration.  They are also usually at least intelligible.  By contrast, consider this paragraph from the beginning of Carrier’s discussion of the Aristotelian proof:

Monday, February 19, 2018

Drunk stoned perverted dead

The immorality of perverting a faculty is far from the whole of natural law moral reasoning, but it is an important and neglected part of it.  The best known application of the idea is within the context of sexual morality, and it is also famously applied in the analysis of the morality of lying.  Another important and perhaps less well known application is in the analysis of the morality of using alcohol and drugs.  The topic is especially timely considering the current trend in the U.S. toward the legalization of marijuana.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Time, space, and God

Samuel Clarke’s A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God is one of the great works of natural theology.  But Clarke’s position is nevertheless in several respects problematic from a Thomistic point of view.  For example, Clarke, like his buddy Newton, takes an absolutist view of time and space.  Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy of nature does not take an absolutist position (though it does not exactly take a relationalist position either).  There are independent metaphysical reasons for this, but for the moment I want to focus on a theological problem.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

NOR on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

Catholics are so accustomed to hearing that opposition to capital punishment is pro-life that few may realize there are good reasons to support it.  Those reasons are set forth in a systematic and convincing manner in By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed.  Edward Feser and Joseph M. Bessette find the pendulum has swung too far in one direction in the capital-punishment debate (to the extent there is one today), and Catholics are confused when told that something their Church upholds, and has always upheld, is now considered immoral…

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The latest on Five Proofs

Check out a short interview I did for EWTN’s Bookmark Brief, hosted by Doug Keck, on the subject of Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  The much longer interview I did for Bookmark will appear before long.

At First Things, Dan Hitchens reflects on how the arguments of Five Proofs might be received in an age of short attention spans.

Jeff Mirus at Catholic Culture recommends Five Proofs.

At Catholic World Report, Christopher Morrissey kindly reviews Five Proofs.  From the review:

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

David Foster Wallace on abstraction

In his book Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity (he had a way with titles), David Foster Wallace has some wise things to say about abstraction.  To orient ourselves, let’s start with the definition of “abstract” he quotes from the O.E.D.: “Withdrawn or separated from matter, from material embodiment, from practice, or from particular examples.  Opposed to concrete.”  So, for example, a billiard rack or a dinner bell is a concrete, particular material object.  Triangularity, by contrast, is a general pattern we mentally abstract or separate out from such objects and consider apart from their individualizing material features (being made of wood or steel, being brown or silver, weighing a certain amount, and so on).

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Coming to a campus near you

On Tuesday, February 6, I will be speaking at Brown University on the topic of capital punishment and natural law.  Prof. James Keating will respond.  The event is sponsored by the Thomistic Institute, and details are available at the Institute’s website and at Facebook.

On Saturday, March 17, I will be presenting a paper on the topic “Cooperation with Sins Against Prudence” at a conference on Cooperation with Evil at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.  The other conference speakers will be Steven Long, Msgr. Andrew McLean Cummings, Christopher Tollefsen, and Fr. Ezra Sullivan, OP.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Prof. Fastiggi’s pretzel logic

I’m going to take a break from the topic of the death penalty soon – I’m quite sick of it myself, believe you me – but the trouble is that critics of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed keep saying things that demand a response.  The latest example is Prof. Robert Fastiggi, who in a series of combox remarks has replied to my recent Catholic World Report article on capital punishment and the ordinary magisterium.  Once again, he ties himself in ever more convoluted logical knots trying to justify the unjustifiable, viz. the possibility of a reversal of 2000 years of clear and unbroken magisterial and scriptural teaching.  But the attempt is well worth calling attention to, because it shows just how far one has to go through the looking glass in order to try to avoid the implications of the evidence Joe Bessette and I have set out in our book.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The latest on Catholicism and capital punishment

Is there still anything left to say about the death penalty?  Yes, plenty.  In the debate generated by By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, the focus has been on questions about the interpretation of various individual scriptural passages, and the level of authority of various papal statements considered in isolation.  But the critics have failed to consider the sheer cumulative force of two millennia of consistent ordinary magisterial teaching.  Some of them have also wrongly supposed that, even if capital punishment is legitimate under natural law, the higher demands of the Gospel might nevertheless rule it out absolutely.  In a new article at Catholic World Report, I show that the ordinary magisterium has taught infallibly that the death penalty is legitimate in principle even as a matter of specifically Christian morality.  No reversal is possible consistent with the indefectibility of the Church.  There’s a fair amount of new material in the article that goes beyond what Joe Bessette and I say in the book.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Barron and Craig in Claremont (Updated again)

Last night at Claremont McKenna College, Stephen Davis and I moderated an exchange between Bishop Robert Barron and William Lane Craig.  You can watch a video recording of the event at Bishop Barron’s Facebook page.  (It looks like you don’t need to be signed in in order to view it.)  Michael Uhlmann is the gentleman you'll see introducing the participants, and Joe Bessette and Brandon Vogt organized the whole thing. The event was sponsored by the Claremont Center for Reason, Religion, and Public Affairs, with the assistance of Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Prof. Craig’s Reasonable Faith.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Five Proofs on television and radio (Updated)

UPDATE 1/12: You can now watch the EWTN Live episode on YouTube or at the EWTN Live web page.

This Wednesday, January 10, I will be on EWTN Live with Fr. Mitch Pacwa to discuss Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  I will also be taping an episode of EWTN Bookmark for future airing. 

Also forthcoming is an interview about the book on Lauren Green’s Lighthouse Faith at Fox News Radio.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Reelin’ in the links

At Catholic World Report, my co-author Joseph Bessette on the death penalty, recent popes, and deterrence.

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder announces her forthcoming book Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray.  She also has a blog.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The best New Atheist book?

The New Atheism, one hears from time to time (e.g. here, here, here, and here), is dead.  Maybe.  It depends on what you mean by “New Atheism.”  I would say that its key marks are three: first, an unreflective and dogmatic scientism; second, an extremely shallow understanding of religion; and third, an obnoxious, evangelical fervor.  The third probably has by now worn out its welcome.  Even many secular people are tired of hearing the ever more unhinged rants and calls to action of the likes of Richard Dawkins and P. Z. Myers, and appalled by the lemming-like behavior of the kind of people who show up at a Reason Rally or Jerry Coyne’s combox.  As a self-conscious movement the New Atheism might be a spent force.

Friday, December 29, 2017

A lexicon for the capital punishment debate

This year, readers of this blog have been subjected to a long, heated, and sometimes confusing series of debates on the subject of Catholicism and capital punishment.  To help you take stock, here’s a guide to the key terms and concepts, in the spirit of Daniel Dennett’s famous Philosophical Lexicon:

harty, adjective.  Gratuitously vituperative, especially toward straw men.  “David is so erudite.  Why does he have to be harty all the time?”

sheameless, adjective.  Harty to the point of spittle-flecked incoherence.  “Mark has been harty ever since the Iraq war, but these days he’s absolutely sheameless.”

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Five Proofs on CrossExamined

Recently I was interviewed by Frank Turek for his show CrossExamined on the subject of my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  You can now listen to the podcast at the CrossExamined website.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Hart that pumps bile

Strangely, as David Bentley Hart has gotten more gratuitously nasty and unhinged in his attacks on me, I find myself less offended, or even having much of an affective reaction at all.  It’s like dealing with a mental patient or a surly neighborhood dog.  You simply navigate the situation, aware that there is no point in getting angry with someone or something that isn’t rational.   It’s too bad.  Our last contretemps, on the subject of eternal damnation, ended with a pleasing amicability in the combox here at the blog.  I had real hope that our future exchanges could be more positive.  Alas, fast forward a few months and Hart is suddenly spitting venom at straw men again in his review of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed in Commonweal (to which I recently replied at Catholic World Report).  And now, at Church Life Journal Hart doubles down on the vitriol and the caricatures.  Perhaps he can’t help it – just as, when reading Hart, I can’t help thinking of the fable of the scorpion and the frog.

Monday, December 18, 2017

At last, another open thread!

Long overdue (sorry), it’s the latest open thread.  Talk amongst yourselves.  Unlike Linda Richman, I won’t give you a topic.    From Aquinas to Quine, Cheap Trick or fine wine, bad puns and lame rhymes – the field is wide open.  Though, you know, maybe capital punishment is a little played at the moment…

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A stocking stuffer for your Romanian friends

Just in time for Christmas: A collection of several of my essays has been published in a Romanian translation, under the title De la Aristotel la John Searle și înapoi. Patru articole filosofice.  More information here.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The latest on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

Last month, Joe Bessette and I participated in a panel discussion about our book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment at the Fall Conference of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.  The other participants were Gerard Bradley and John O’Callaghan, and the session was moderated by Matthew Franck.  The session can now be viewed at YouTube.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Manion on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

A highly recommended book that sheds the patient, clear light of reason on the issue of capital punishment.  Every U.S. bishop should read it…

In recent years, position statements and lobbying efforts of the USCCB have ranged across a wide variety of prudential issues, from global warming and tax policy to immigration and the death penalty.

There are many policy approaches to such issues that might conform to the precepts of legitimate Catholic social teaching, so Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Church, requires that action on in this area be left to the laity.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Debate? What debate?

Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong seems to be a well-meaning fellow, but I have to say that I am finding some of his behavior very odd.  To my great surprise, I learned this afternoon that he has grandly announced the following on Facebook:

Friday, December 1, 2017

Feser vs. Ahmed on Unbelievable?

Recently, on the UK radio program Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, I debated atheist philosopher Arif Ahmed on the subject of my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  You can now listen to the debate online.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Reply to Griffiths and Hart

By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment received some pretty nasty reviews from Paul Griffiths in First Things and David Bentley Hart in Commonweal.   My response to Griffiths and Hart can now be read at Catholic World Report.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Barron and Craig event

On Saturday, January 13, 2018, the Claremont Center for Reason, Religion, and Public Affairs will host “A Conversation with Bishop Robert Barron and William Lane Craig” at Claremont McKenna College.  The moderators of the discussion will be Stephen Davis and Edward Feser.  The event is free but registration is required.  More information here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Reply to Fastiggi

In a recent article at Catholic World Report, Prof. Robert Fastiggi defends the claim that the Church could reverse her traditional teaching that capital punishment is legitimate in principle.  My reply to Fastiggi has now been posted at CWR.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Reply to Brugger and Tollefsen (Updated again)

UPDATE 11/21: Part 3 has also now been posted.

UPDATE 11/20: Part 2 has now been posted.

In a recent series of articles at Public Discourse, E. Christian Brugger (here and here) and Christopher Tollefsen (here and here) have criticized By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.  This week, Public Discourse is running my three-part reply.  Part 1 has now been posted.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Two further ideas about development of doctrine

Go read Mike Pakaluk’s excellent brief article “Four Ideas About Development” at First Things, then come back.  Welcome back.  Here are a couple of further thoughts to add to his:

Fifth, development is properly spoken of in the passive voice rather than the active voice.  It always drives me crazy when Catholics, including churchmen, go around talking about whether a pope will or will not “develop” this or that doctrine.  Development is essentially something that happens.  It is not an activity that a pope or anyone else decides to carry out when he gets some bright idea into his head.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Link it! Link it good!

On BBC Radio 4, Melvyn Bragg discusses Kant’s categorical imperative with David Oderberg and other philosophers

Philosopher of science Bas van Fraassen is interviewed at 3:AM Magazine.

At First Things, Rusty Reno on accommodation to liberal modernity among contemporary American conservatives and in the pontificate of Pope Francis.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Dawkins vs. Aquinas on Pints with Aquinas (Updated)

UPDATE 11/14: Part two of the interview has now been posted.

Recently I was interviewed by Matt Fradd for his Pints with Aquinas podcast.  We talk a bit about Five Proofs of the Existence of God, but our main topic is Richard Dawkins’s critique of Aquinas’s Five Ways in The God Delusion.  We work through each of the objections Dawkins raises and discuss where they go wrong.  Matt is posting the interview in two parts, and the first part has now been posted.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Aristotle and contemporary science

Routledge has just released the important new anthology Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science, edited by William M. R. Simpson, Robert C. Koons, and Nicholas J. Teh.  I’ve contributed an essay titled “Actuality, Potentiality, and Relativity’s Block Universe.”  The other contributors are Xavi Lanao, Nicholas Teh, Robert Koons, Alexander Pruss, William Simpson, Tuomas Tahko, Christopher Austin, Anna Marmodoro, David Oderberg, Janice Chik, William Jaworski, and Daniel De Haan, with a foreword by John Haldane.  The book is available in hardcover or, for a much lower price, in an electronic version.

Pakaluk on capital punishment

Philosopher Michael Pakaluk kindly provided an endorsement for By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.  In an essay at The Catholic Thing, Mike puts forward an important defense of his own of the death penalty.  Go give it a read.  Along the way, he comments once again on By Man, calling it “the most comprehensive case ever assembled” for capital punishment.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Review of Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back (Updated)

UPDATE 11/19: The review can now be read online for free.

My review of Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds appears in the Fall 2017 issue of the Claremont Review of Books.  (This is the issue that also contains Janet Smith’s review of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed.  Good excuse to buy a copy!)