Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Revisiting Ross on the immateriality of thought

The late James Ross put forward a powerful argument for the immateriality of the intellect.  I developed and defended this argument in my essay “Kripke, Ross, and the Immaterial Aspects of Thought,” which originally appeared in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly and is reprinted in Neo-Scholastic Essays.  Peter Dillard raises three objections to my essay in his ACPQ article “Ross Revisited: Reply to Feser.”  Let’s take a look.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Forthcoming speaking engagements

The Thomistic Institute and St. Thomas Aquinas Parish at the University of Virginia are co-sponsoring a day of lectures on natural theology on Saturday, January 28.  The speakers are Edward Feser and Fr. James Brent.  Details here and here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

More on Amoris

Invoking Amoris Laetitia, the bishops of Malta have decreed that adulterers who feel “at peace with God” and find it “humanly impossible” to refrain from sex may receive absolution and go to communion.  Their declaration is published in the Vatican’s own newspaper

Canon lawyer Edward Peters judges the Malta situation a “disaster” that makes it “urgent” that the four cardinals’ dubia be answered either by Pope Francis or Cardinal Müller.  Cardinal Caffarra says that “only a blind man” could deny that the Church is in crisis.  Philosopher Joseph Shaw judges that the crisis “is truly separating the men from the boys.”

The man and the theology behind Amoris:  At Crux, philosopher Michael Pakaluk uncovers the depth of the influence of papal advisor and ghostwriter Archbishop Victor Fernandez.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Addison’s disease (Updated)

Addison Hodges Hart is a Christian author, former Catholic priest, and the brother of theologian David Bentley Hart.  (From here on out I’ll refer to David and Addison by their first names, simply for ease of reference rather than by way of presuming any familiarity.)  A reader calls my attention to the Fans of David Bentley Hart page at Facebook, wherein Addison takes issue with my recent article criticizing his brother’s universalism.  His loyalty to his brother is admirable.   The substance of his response, not so much.  Non-existent, in fact.  For Addison has nothing whatsoever to say in reply to the content of my criticisms.  Evidently, it is their very existence that irks him.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Hartless God?

Lest the impatient reader start to think of this as the blog from hell, what follows will be – well, for a while, anyway – my last post on that subject.  Recall that in earlier posts I set out a Thomistic defense of the doctrine of eternal damnation.  In the first, I explained how, on Aquinas’s view, the immortal soul of the person who is damned becomes permanently locked on to evil upon death.  The second post argued that since the person who is damned perpetually wills evil, God perpetually inflicts on that person a proportionate punishment.  The third post explains why the souls of the damned would not be annihilated instead.  In this post I will respond to a critique of the doctrine of eternal damnation put forward by my old sparring partner, Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart, in his article “God, Creation, and Evil: The Moral Meaning of creatio ex nihilo (from the September 2015 issue of Radical Orthodoxy).

Thursday, January 5, 2017

COMING SOON: By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

I am pleased to announce the forthcoming publication by Ignatius Press of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty, which I have co-authored with Prof. Joseph Bessette of Claremont McKenna College.  You can order it from Amazon or directly from Ignatius

From the promotional materials:

Friday, December 30, 2016

Auld links syne

Get your geek on.  Blade Runner 2049 will be out in 2017.  So will Iron Fist, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Alien: Covenant, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Defenders, and Thor: Ragnarok.  Season 2 of The Man in the High Castle is already here.

The 2017 Dominican Colloquium in Berkeley will take place July 12-15.  The theme is Person, Soul and Consciousness.  Speakers include Lawrence Feingold, Thomas Hünefeldt, Steven Long, Nancey Murphy, David Oderberg, Ted Peters, Anselm Ramelow, Markus Rothhaar, Richard Schenk, D. C. Schindler, Michael Sherwin, Eleonore Stump, and Thomas Weinandy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Besong on Scholastic Metaphysics

In the December issue of New Oxford Review, philosopher Brian Besong kindly reviews my book Scholastic Metaphysics.  From the review:

Philosopher Edward Feser has earned significant fanfare in recent years for his lucid presentations and defenses of Thomism… The fanfare is well deserved, for in addition to a witty polemical style, Feser has a mostly unrivaled ability to present faithfully the views of Aquinas in a deep and systematic way

Thursday, December 22, 2016

How Pope Benedict XVI dealt with disagreement

In 1988, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) consecrated four bishops against the express orders of Pope John Paul II.  The Vatican declared that the archbishop and the new bishops had, by virtue of this act, incurred a latae sententiae (or automatic) excommunication.  This brought to a head years of tension between the Society and the Vatican, occasioned by the Society’s disagreement with liturgical and doctrinal changes following Vatican II.  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then the chief doctrinal officer of the Church and later to become Pope Benedict XVI, had worked strenuously, if in vain, for a reconciliation.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Denial flows into the Tiber

Pope Honorius I occupied the chair of Peter from 625-638.  As the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia notes in its article on Honorius, his chief claim to fame is that “he was condemned as a heretic by the sixth general council” in the year 680.  The heresy in question was Monothelitism, which (as the Encyclopedia notes) was “propagated within the Catholic Church in order to conciliate the Monophysites, in hopes of reunion.”  That is to say, the novel heresy was the byproduct of a misguided attempt to meet halfway, and thereby integrate into the Church, an earlier group of heretics.  The condemnation of Pope Honorius by the council was not the end of the matter.  Honorius was also condemned by his successors Pope St. Agatho and Pope St. Leo II.  Leo declared:

We anathematize the inventors of the new error… and also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of Apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Hiroshima, mon Amoris? (Updated 12/16)

Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia has been something of a bombshell.  And its critics worry that it will have something like a bombshell’s effect on the Church.  Most readers are no doubt aware of the four cardinals’ now famous dubia (“doubts”), requesting from the pope clarification on certain doctrinal questions raised by the document.  This was preceded earlier this year by a statement from forty-five theologians and clergy asking the pope to repudiate theological errors they take to be apparent in the document.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Why not annihilation?

Another post on hell?  Will this series never end?  Never fear, dear reader.  As Elaine Benes would say, it only feels like an eternity.  We’ll get on to another topic before long.

Hell itself never ends, though.  But why not?  A critic might agree that the damned essentially choose to go to hell, and that it is just for God to inflict a punishment proportionate to this evil choice.  The critic might still wonder, though, why the punishment has to be perpetual.  Couldn’t God simply annihilate the damned person after some period of suffering?  Wouldn’t this be not only more merciful, but also more just?  

Monday, November 28, 2016

Mexican link off

Argentine standoff: Pope Francis and the four cardinals, as reported by National Catholic Register and Catholic Herald.  Commentary from First Things and Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

Richard Dawkins misrepresents science, according to British scientists

Enter the Brotherhood of Steely Dan, at Vinyl Me, Please.  Live for Live Music looks back on Gaucho.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Does God damn you?

Modern defenders of the doctrine of eternal punishment often argue that those who are damned essentially damn themselves.  As I indicated in a recent post on hell, from a Thomistic point of view that is indeed part of the story.  However, that is not the whole story, though these modern defenders of the doctrine sometimes give the opposite impression.  In particular, they sometimes make it sound as if, strictly speaking, God has nothing to do with someone’s being damned.  That is not correct.  From a Thomistic point of view, damnation is the product of a joint effort.  That you are eternally deserving of punishment is your doing.  That you eternally get the punishment you deserve is God’s doing.  You put yourself in hell, and God ensures that it is appropriately hellish.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The pre-existence of the soul

Our visit to hell hasn’t ended.  (How could it?)  More on the subject of damnation in a forthcoming follow-up post.  But first, a brief look at another topic which, it seems to me, is illuminated by the considerations raised in that previous post.  Can the soul exist prior to the existence of the body of which it is the soul?  Plato thought so.  Aquinas thought otherwise.  In Summa Contra Gentiles II.83-84 he presents a battery of arguments to the effect that the soul begins to exist only when the body does.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Can schadenfreude be virtuous?

Bill Vallicella asks: Is there a righteous form of schadenfreude?  The Angelic Doctor appears to answer in the affirmative.  Speaking of the knowledge that the blessed in heaven have of the damned, Aquinas famously says:

It is written (Psalm 57:11): “The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge”…

Therefore the blessed will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked…

Friday, November 4, 2016

Swindal on Neo-Scholastic Essays

In the latest issue of the International Philosophical Quarterly, Prof. James Swindal kindly reviews my book Neo-Scholastic Essays.  From the review:

Feser… is thoroughly steeped both in analytic philosophy and Scholastic thought…

[T]his review touches on only a few aspects of Feser’s extensive achievement and the many arguments he deftly crafts and cogently defends.  He furnishes substantial hope for a further productive, and neither dogmatic nor defensive, dialogue between Thomism and analytic philosophy.  Success in moving this dialogue forward requires scholars, precisely like him, who [have] a deep familiarity with and respect for both traditions.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

How to go to hell

How is it that anyone ever goes to hell?  How could a loving and merciful God send anyone there?  How could any sin be grave enough to merit eternal damnation?  How could it be that not merely a handful of people, but a great many people, end up in hell, as most Christian theologians have held historically?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Jackson on Popper on materialism

While we’re on the subject of mind-body interaction, let’s take a look at Frank Jackson’s article on Karl Popper’s philosophy of mind in the new Cambridge Companion to Popper, edited by Jeremy Shearmur and Geoffrey Stokes.  Popper was a dualist of sorts, and Jackson’s focus is on the role Popper’s “World 3” concept and the issue of causal interaction played in his critique of materialism.

Nothing has changed

Recently I announced my intention not to renew my membership in the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP) in light of SCP President Michael Rea’s statement distancing the SCP from a talk on traditional sexual morality given by Prof. Richard Swinburne at an SCP conference.  (I’ve discussed the controversy generated by this statement here and here.)  More recently I called attention to Prof. Swinburne’s public statement on the matter.  I have been asked if I have changed my mind in light of Swinburne’s statement.  The answer is No, I have not. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Swinburne speaks

An update on the SCP controversy, about which I have blogged recently (here, here, and here).  I have been in communication with Prof. Richard Swinburne, who has kindly offered “thanks for the support which you have given to me personally and to everyone concerned that the SCP should welcome lectures and papers from those defending traditional Christian morality.”  Prof. Swinburne informs me that he has prepared a public statement on the controversy.  Since readers of this blog will naturally find such a statement of interest, I offered to post it here.  Here it is:

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Latest from Oderberg

David Oderberg’s new paper “Further clarity on cooperation and morality” appears in the Journal of Medical Ethics.  See also his guest post at the Journal of Medical Ethics blog.

A talk by Oderberg on the theme “The Great Unifier: Form and the Unity of the Organism” can be viewed at YouTube.

Oderberg was recently named as one of the top 50 most influential living philosophers.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Goodbye SCP (Updated)

It has been two weeks or so since the controversy over Richard Swinburne and the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP) erupted.  I’ve got nothing to add to what I and many others have already said, except this: I will not be renewing my membership in the SCP.  I quit.  Goodbye.  Other SCP members will have to make up their own minds about how best to react to the situation, but I would encourage them to leave as well.  In my judgment, the SCP no longer deserves the financial and moral support of Christian philosophers.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Secret crisis of infinite links

On the other hand, at Nautilus, empiricist philosopher of science Bas van Fraassen tells scientists to steer clear of metaphysics.

As usual, Aristotle had the answer long before you thought of the question.  His little known treatise on internet trolling.

Slurpee cups.  Marvel Treasury Editions.  Gerber’s Howard the Duck.  Hostess fruit pie ads.  Claremont and Byrne’s X-MenSecret WarsCrisis on Infinite Earths…  If you’re of a certain age, you know what I’m talkin’ about.  At Forces of Geek, George Khoury discusses his new book Comic Book Fever: A Celebration of Comics 1976 to 1986.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Aquinas on consciousness

My article “Aquinas and the problem of consciousness” appears in the anthology Consciousness and the Great Philosophers, edited by Stephen Leach and James Tartaglia and just published by Routledge.  Lots of interesting stuff in this volume.  The table of contents and other information are available here.