Thursday, July 20, 2017

Msgr. Swetland’s confusions

Msgr. Stuart Swetland is a theologian and the president of Donnelly College.  You might recall that, almost a year ago, he gained some notoriety for his bizarre opinion that having a positive view of Islam is nothing less than a requirement of Catholic orthodoxy.  As that episode indicates, the monsignor is not the surest of guides to what the Church teaches.  If there were any lingering doubt about that, it was dispelled by his performance during my radio debate with him last week on the subject of capital punishment.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Essence and existence

Recently, Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY hosted a workshop on the theme Aquinas on Metaphysics.  I spoke on the topic of “The Distinction of Essence and Existence.”  Audio of the talk has now been posted online at the Thomistic Institute’s Soundcloud page.

McCaffrey and Murray on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

At Catholic Media Apostolate, Roger McCaffrey and Fr. Gerald Murray discuss my book (co-authored with Joseph Bessette) By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Aquinas watches Glengarry Glen Ross

David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross is a thing of beauty.  This assertion is bound to shock some readers who have seen the movie (originally a stage play).  It is notoriously foul-mouthed.  The dialogue is in other ways idiosyncratic, characterized by unfamiliar slang and incomplete sentences (a Mamet trademark).  None of the characters is admirable; indeed, most of them are to some degree or other positively repulsive – ruthless, lying, manipulative, arrogant, weak, cruel, incompetent, thieving, vindictive, corrupt.  The irony is that the movie is beautiful in part because of these features, rather than despite them.  How can that be?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Briggs on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

[A] book so thorough and so relentless that it is difficult to imagine anybody reading it and coming away unconvinced by the lawfulness and usefulness of capital punishment…

Experts on this subject may be assured that Feser and Bessette have covered every facet with the same assiduity of a lawyer preparing a Supreme Court brief.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Capital punishment on the radio (UPDATED)

Joe Bessette and I will be doing a number of radio interviews in connection with our new book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.  Yesterday I appeared on Kresta in the Afternoon, and you can find the interview here.  Today I appeared on The Mike Janocik Show to discuss the theological side of the issue.  Joe will appear on the show next week to discuss the social scientific aspects of the issue. 

Many further radio appearances are scheduled for next week and beyond.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Taking Aquinas seriously

At First Things, Connor Grubaugh interviews me on the subject of Thomas Aquinas and Analytical Thomism.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It’s the next open thread

Here is your latest opportunity to converse about topics that have not arisen in the course of other combox discussions at this here blog.  From neo-Kantianism to neo-conservatism, from mortal sin to imported gin, from the dubia cardinals to the Doobie Brothers – discuss whatever you like, within reason.  Keep it civil, but for once you needn’t keep it on topic.

Fr. Z on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

The esteemed Fr. John Zuhlsdorf kindly calls his readers’ attention to By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, my new book co-written with Joseph Bessette.  Fr. Z writes:

Anything written by Edward Feser is reliable and worth time… This is a good book for the strong reader, student of Catholic moral and social teaching, seminarians and clerics.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Arguments from desire

On his radio show yesterday, Dennis Prager acknowledged that one reason he believes in God – though not the only one – is that he wants it to be the case that God exists.  The thought that there is no compensation in the hereafter for suffering endured in this life, nor any reunion with departed loved ones, is one he finds just too depressing.  Prager did not present this as an argument for the existence of God or for life after death, but just the expression of a motivation for believing in God and the afterlife.  But there have, historically, been attempts to develop this idea into an actual argument.  This is known as the argument from desire, and its proponents include Aquinas and C. S. Lewis.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Surf dat web

A lecture by David Oderberg answering the question: Should there be freedom of dissociation?

Philosopher of physics Tim Maudlin defends the reality of time and change, at Quanta magazine.

At The Weekly Standard, Camille Paglia on Trump, transgenderism, and terrorism.

Why is there more disagreement in philosophy than in science?  Maybe because philosophy is just harder, suggests David Papineau in the Times Literary Supplement.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Stroud on Hume

David Hume, as I often argue, is overrated.  But that’s not his fault.  It’s the fault of those who do the overrating.  So, rather than beat up on him (as I have done recently), let’s beat up on them for a change.  Or rather, let’s watch Barry Stroud do it, in a way that is far more genteel than I’m inclined to.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Five Proofs is coming

Five Proofs of the Existence of God will be out this Fall.  You can pre-order at the Ignatius Press website and at Amazon.  Here’s the book jacket description:

Five Proofs of the Existence of God provides a detailed, updated exposition and defense of five of the historically most important (but in recent years largely neglected) philosophical proofs of God's existence: the Aristotelian proof, the Neo-Platonic proof, the Augustinian proof, the Thomistic proof, and the Rationalist proof.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The curious case of Pope Francis and the “new natural lawyers”

The “new natural law theory” (NNLT) was invented in the 1960s by theologian Germain Grisez and has found prominent advocates in law professors John Finnis and Robert P. George.  Other influential members of this school of thought include the philosophers Joseph Boyle and Christopher Tollefsen and the theologian E. Christian Brugger.  The “new natural lawyers” (as they are sometimes called) have gained a reputation for upholding Catholic orthodoxy, and not without reason.  They have been staunch critics of contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and “same-sex marriage.”  However, the NNLT also departs in several crucial ways not only from the traditional natural law theory associated with Thomas Aquinas and the Thomistic tradition (which is what makes the NNLT “new”), but also from traditional Catholic moral theology.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Catholic Herald on capital punishment

The latest issue of the Catholic Herald features an article by Dan Hitchens on Catholicism and the death penalty which discusses By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, which I co-authored with political scientist Joseph Bessette and which has just been released by Ignatius Press.  The article contains some remarks from a brief interview I did with the Herald

When is a university not a university?

Some readers may by now have heard about what is happening at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, where the university president’s actions have put the philosophy faculty in fear for their jobs and for the survival of their program.  Details are available at Daily Nous (with a follow-up here) and at Inside Higher Ed.  Philosophers at the University of Notre Dame have issued a statement on the controversy.  John Hittinger at the University of St. Thomas has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a legal defense.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Peters on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, which I co-authored with political scientist Joseph Bessette, is now available.  Edward Peters, Professor of Canon Law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, comments today at Facebook:

Since I first saw it in galley form several months ago I have been impatiently awaiting the [book’s] publication… Well, my copy just arrived in the mail.

Defenders of the death penalty for certain heinous offenses need no encouragement from me to study this book, of course, but, from now on, opponents of the death penalty who do not address the arguments set out by Feser & Bessette really have nothing useful to contribute to the debate.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Wrath and its daughters

We’ve examined lust and its daughters.  Turning to another of the seven deadly sins, let’s consider wrath.  Like lust, wrath is the distortion of a passion that is in itself good.  Like lust, it can become deeply habituated, and even a source of a kind of perverse pleasure in the one who indulges it.  (Hence the neologism “rageaholic.”)  And like lust, it can as a consequence severely impair reason.  Aquinas treats the subject in Summa Theologiae II-II.158 and Question XII of On Evil.  (Relevant material can also be found in the treatment of the passion of anger in Summa Theologiae I-II.46-48.)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Davies on evil suffered

In The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil, Brian Davies draws a distinction between “evil suffered” and “evil done.”  Evil suffered is badness that happens to or afflicts someone or something.  Evil done is badness that is actively brought about or inflicted by some moral agent.  A reader asks me:

Do you agree with Davies in saying that God does not directly bring about what he calls “evil suffered”?  I want to agree, but yet I don’t know how to reconcile Davies’ position (and what seems to be Aquinas’ position) with God apparently directly willing the end of Ananias and Sapphira’s life in Acts 5, which obviously is an evil suffered.  It doesn’t seem there is causality per accidens like Davies describes God’s causal activity when it comes to evil suffered (e.g., good of one thing curtailing the good of another).

Monday, May 1, 2017

Caught in the web

The Dictionary of Christianity and Science has just been published by Zondervan.  I contributed an essay to the volume.

Philosopher and AI critic Hubert Dreyfus has died.  John Schwenkler on Dreyfus at First Things.

A new article from David Oderberg: “Co-operation in the Age of Hobby Lobby: When Sincerity is Not Enough,” in the current issue of Expositions.  (Follow the link and click on the PDF.)

Philosopher Daniel Bonevac on being a conservative in academia, at Times Higher Education.