Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cooperation with sins against prudence (and chastity)


Last month I gave a talk on the theme “Cooperation with Sins against Prudence” at a conference on Cooperation with Evil at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.  You can now listen to the talk at the Thomistic Institute’s Soundcloud page. 
 
Prudence is the virtue by which we know the right ends to pursue and the right means by which to pursue them.  Aquinas argued that sexual immorality tends more than other vices to erode prudence.  The erosion of prudence, in turn, tends to undermine one’s general capacity for moral reasoning.  Hence, when we facilitate the sexual sins of others, we tend thereby (whether we realize it or not) to promote their general moral corruption.  In the talk, I develop and defend this theme and apply it to a critique of the views of Fr. Antonio Spadaro and Fr. James Martin.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Best T-shirt ever


Just back from a very enjoyable visit to Southern Evangelical Seminary, where I gave a lecture last night on classical theism.  Many thanks to the very kind folks at SES for their hospitality.  And thanks also for what is probably the best T-shirt I’ve ever seen – SES’s Act and Potency T-shirt, emblazoned with an image of Aquinas together with the first of the Twenty-Four Thomistic Theses.  You can pick one up via the SES store website, where I see they also have a matching Act and Potency coffee mug and Act and Potency poster.  Amaze your friends, or at least baffle them!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Does God have emotions?


An accusation sometimes leveled by theistic personalists against the classical theism of thinkers like Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas is that their position makes God out to be “unemotional” or “unfeeling” and thus less than personal.  Is the charge just?  It is not, as I’ve argued many times.  So, does God have emotions?  It depends on what you mean.  On the one hand, as Aquinas argues in Summa Contra Gentiles I.89, it is not correct to attribute to God what he calls “the passions of the appetites.”  For passions involve changeability, and since God is purely actual and without passive potentiality, he cannot change.  Hence it makes no sense to think of God becoming agitated or calming down, feeling a sudden pang of sadness or a surge of excitement, or undergoing any of the other shifts in affect that we often have in mind when we talk of the emotions.  On the other hand, no sooner does Aquinas say this than he immediately goes on in SCG I.90-91 to argue that there is in God delight, joy, and love.  And of course, delight, joy, and love are also among the things we have in mind when we talk of the emotions.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Upcoming speaking engagements


Just back from a very enjoyable speaking engagement at Baylor University.  Here are the next few scheduled talks:

On Thursday, April 19, I will be speaking on the topic of classical theism and the divine attributes at Southern Evangelical Seminary near Charlotte, North Carolina.  More information here.

I will be speaking at the Society of Catholic Scientists conference on The Human Mind and Physicalism which will be held at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. from June 8-10.  More information here.

On June 27, I will be speaking at Fermilab near Chicago, Illinois, on the topic “What is a Law of Nature?”  More information here.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Chalk on Five Proofs, etc.


At The American Conservative, Casey Chalk recounts some of the public controversies I’ve been party to over the last few years, and judges them a model of how academic debate ought to proceed.  (David Bentley Hart drops by to comment in the TAC combox.)  Meanwhile, at The University Bookman, Chalk kindly reviews Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  From the review:

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Five Books on Arguments for God’s Existence (Updated)


Five Books is a website devoted to in-depth interviews with leaders in a wide variety of fields – philosophy, politics, science, literature, and so forth – about five books in their fields that they would recommend.  Recently I was interviewed for the site on the subject of five books on arguments for the existence of God.  It’s a pretty long interview (and conversational in style insofar as it was conducted by telephone).

Friday, March 30, 2018

Holy Triduum


I wish all my readers a holy Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  Some Triduum-related posts from past years:




No hell, no heaven


As Aquinas teaches, Christ did not die to save the fallen angels, because they cannot be saved.  They cannot be saved because their wills are locked on to evil.  It is impossible for them to repent.  It is impossible for them to repent because they are incorporeal, and thus lack the bodily preconditions for the changeability of the will’s basic orientation toward either good or evil.  An angel makes this basic choice once and for all upon its creation.  It is because we are corporeal that Christ can save us.  But he can do so only while we are still in the flesh.  Upon death, the soul is divorced from the body and thus, like an angel, becomes locked on to a basic orientation toward either good or evil.  If it is not saved before death, it cannot be saved.  It’s game over.  I explained the reasons for all this in a post on the metaphysics of damnation.

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.