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.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Christina van Dyke owes Richard Swinburne her resignation

Christina van Dyke is the Executive Director of the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP), whose President, Michael Rea, recently issued a statement on Facebook disavowing a talk defending traditional Christian sexual morality given by Richard Swinburne at an SCP conference.  Rea’s critics argue that his action has politicized the SCP insofar as it has, in effect, officially distanced the Society from the traditionalist side of the dispute over sexual morality and given an SCP endorsement to the liberal side.  I have argued that Rea owes Swinburne an apology, and a group of philosophers is now petitioning the SCP for an apology.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Robert P. George on capital punishment (Updated)

Mark Shea and I have been debating Catholicism and capital punishment.  (See this post and this one for my side of the exchange and for links to Shea’s side of it.)  Shea has been talking to “new natural law” theorist Prof. Robert P. George about the subject.  He quotes Robbie saying the following:

In fact, the Church can and has changed its teaching on the death penalty, and it can and does (now) teach that it is intrinsically wrong (not merely prudentially inadvisable). Both John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism reject killing AS A PENALTY, i.e., as a punishment, i.e., for retributive reasons. Rightly or wrongly (I think rightly, but the teaching is not infallibly proposed—Professor Feser is right about that—nor was the teaching it replaces infallibly proposed) the Church now teaches that the only reason for which you can kill someone who has committed a heinous crime is for self-defense and the defense of innocent third parties. You can’t kill him AS A PUNISHMENT, even if he’s Hitler or Osama bin Laden, once you’ve got him effectively and permanently disabled from committing further heinous crimes. There is no other way to read Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism. The interesting debate, I think, is about the status of the earlier teaching and what kind of assent, if any, it demanded of faithful Catholics…

Monday, September 26, 2016

Michael Rea owes Richard Swinburne an apology

Richard Swinburne, emeritus professor of philosophy at Oxford University, author of many highly influential books, and among the most eminent of contemporary Christian thinkers, recently gave the keynote address at a meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP).  In his talk, which was on the theme of sexual morality, he defended the view that homosexual acts are disordered – a view that has historically been commonly held within Christianity and the other major world religions, has been defended by philosophers like Plato, Aquinas, and Kant, and is defended to this day by various natural law theorists.  So, it would seem a perfectly suitable topic of discussion and debate for a meeting of Christian philosophers of religion.  Of course, that view is highly controversial today.  Even some contemporary Christian philosophers disagree with Swinburne.  I wasn’t there, but apparently his talk generated some criticism.   Fair enough.  That’s what meetings of philosophers are about – the free and vigorous exchange of ideas and arguments.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A further reply to Mark Shea

At Catholic World Report, Mark Brumley comments on my exchange with Mark Shea concerning Catholicism and capital punishment.  Brumley hopes that “charity and clarity” will prevail in the contemporary debate on this subject.  I couldn’t agree more.  Unfortunately, you’ll find only a little charity, and no clarity, in Shea’s latest contribution to the discussion.  Shea labels his post a “reply” to what I recently wrote about him but in fact he completely ignores the points I made and instead persists in attacking straw men, begging the question, and raising issues that are completely irrelevant to the dispute between us.