Friday, March 23, 2018

Bellarmine on capital punishment

In a recent Catholic World Report article supplementing the argument of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, I called attention to the consistent support for capital punishment to be found in the Doctors of the Church.  (See the article for an explanation of the doctrinal significance of this consensus.)  As I there noted, St. Robert Bellarmine is an especially important witness on this topic.  For one thing, among all the Doctors, Bellarmine wrote the most systematically and at greatest length about how Christian principles apply within a modern political order, specifically.  For another, he addressed the subject of capital punishment at some length, in chapters 13 and 21 of De Laicis, or the Treatise on Civil Government.  What Bellarmine has to say strongly reinforces the judgment that the Church cannot reverse her traditional teaching that capital punishment is legitimate in principle (a judgment for which there is already conclusive independent evidence, as the writings referred to above show).

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.