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.

Friday, December 29, 2017

A lexicon for the capital punishment debate

This year, readers of this blog have been subjected to a long, heated, and sometimes confusing series of debates on the subject of Catholicism and capital punishment.  To help you take stock, here’s a guide to the key terms and concepts, in the spirit of Daniel Dennett’s famous Philosophical Lexicon:

harty, adjective.  Gratuitously vituperative, especially toward straw men.  “David is so erudite.  Why does he have to be harty all the time?”

sheameless, adjective.  Harty to the point of spittle-flecked incoherence.  “Mark has been harty ever since the Iraq war, but these days he’s absolutely sheameless.”

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Five Proofs on CrossExamined

Recently I was interviewed by Frank Turek for his show CrossExamined on the subject of my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  You can now listen to the podcast at the CrossExamined website.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Hart that pumps bile

Strangely, as David Bentley Hart has gotten more gratuitously nasty and unhinged in his attacks on me, I find myself less offended, or even having much of an affective reaction at all.  It’s like dealing with a mental patient or a surly neighborhood dog.  You simply navigate the situation, aware that there is no point in getting angry with someone or something that isn’t rational.   It’s too bad.  Our last contretemps, on the subject of eternal damnation, ended with a pleasing amicability in the combox here at the blog.  I had real hope that our future exchanges could be more positive.  Alas, fast forward a few months and Hart is suddenly spitting venom at straw men again in his review of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed in Commonweal (to which I recently replied at Catholic World Report).  And now, at Church Life Journal Hart doubles down on the vitriol and the caricatures.  Perhaps he can’t help it – just as, when reading Hart, I can’t help thinking of the fable of the scorpion and the frog.

Monday, December 18, 2017

At last, another open thread!

Long overdue (sorry), it’s the latest open thread.  Talk amongst yourselves.  Unlike Linda Richman, I won’t give you a topic.    From Aquinas to Quine, Cheap Trick or fine wine, bad puns and lame rhymes – the field is wide open.  Though, you know, maybe capital punishment is a little played at the moment…

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A stocking stuffer for your Romanian friends

Just in time for Christmas: A collection of several of my essays has been published in a Romanian translation, under the title De la Aristotel la John Searle și înapoi. Patru articole filosofice.  More information here.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The latest on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

Last month, Joe Bessette and I participated in a panel discussion about our book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment at the Fall Conference of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.  The other participants were Gerard Bradley and John O’Callaghan, and the session was moderated by Matthew Franck.  The session can now be viewed at YouTube.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Manion on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

A highly recommended book that sheds the patient, clear light of reason on the issue of capital punishment.  Every U.S. bishop should read it…

In recent years, position statements and lobbying efforts of the USCCB have ranged across a wide variety of prudential issues, from global warming and tax policy to immigration and the death penalty.

There are many policy approaches to such issues that might conform to the precepts of legitimate Catholic social teaching, so Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Church, requires that action on in this area be left to the laity.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Debate? What debate?

Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong seems to be a well-meaning fellow, but I have to say that I am finding some of his behavior very odd.  To my great surprise, I learned this afternoon that he has grandly announced the following on Facebook:

Friday, December 1, 2017

Feser vs. Ahmed on Unbelievable?

Recently, on the UK radio program Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, I debated atheist philosopher Arif Ahmed on the subject of my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  You can now listen to the debate online.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Reply to Griffiths and Hart

By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment received some pretty nasty reviews from Paul Griffiths in First Things and David Bentley Hart in Commonweal.   My response to Griffiths and Hart can now be read at Catholic World Report.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Barron and Craig event

On Saturday, January 13, 2018, the Claremont Center for Reason, Religion, and Public Affairs will host “A Conversation with Bishop Robert Barron and William Lane Craig” at Claremont McKenna College.  The moderators of the discussion will be Stephen Davis and Edward Feser.  The event is free but registration is required.  More information here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Reply to Fastiggi

In a recent article at Catholic World Report, Prof. Robert Fastiggi defends the claim that the Church could reverse her traditional teaching that capital punishment is legitimate in principle.  My reply to Fastiggi has now been posted at CWR.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Reply to Brugger and Tollefsen (Updated again)

UPDATE 11/21: Part 3 has also now been posted.

UPDATE 11/20: Part 2 has now been posted.

In a recent series of articles at Public Discourse, E. Christian Brugger (here and here) and Christopher Tollefsen (here and here) have criticized By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.  This week, Public Discourse is running my three-part reply.  Part 1 has now been posted.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Two further ideas about development of doctrine

Go read Mike Pakaluk’s excellent brief article “Four Ideas About Development” at First Things, then come back.  Welcome back.  Here are a couple of further thoughts to add to his:

Fifth, development is properly spoken of in the passive voice rather than the active voice.  It always drives me crazy when Catholics, including churchmen, go around talking about whether a pope will or will not “develop” this or that doctrine.  Development is essentially something that happens.  It is not an activity that a pope or anyone else decides to carry out when he gets some bright idea into his head.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Link it! Link it good!

On BBC Radio 4, Melvyn Bragg discusses Kant’s categorical imperative with David Oderberg and other philosophers

Philosopher of science Bas van Fraassen is interviewed at 3:AM Magazine.

At First Things, Rusty Reno on accommodation to liberal modernity among contemporary American conservatives and in the pontificate of Pope Francis.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Dawkins vs. Aquinas on Pints with Aquinas (Updated)

UPDATE 11/14: Part two of the interview has now been posted.

Recently I was interviewed by Matt Fradd for his Pints with Aquinas podcast.  We talk a bit about Five Proofs of the Existence of God, but our main topic is Richard Dawkins’s critique of Aquinas’s Five Ways in The God Delusion.  We work through each of the objections Dawkins raises and discuss where they go wrong.  Matt is posting the interview in two parts, and the first part has now been posted.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Aristotle and contemporary science

Routledge has just released the important new anthology Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science, edited by William M. R. Simpson, Robert C. Koons, and Nicholas J. Teh.  I’ve contributed an essay titled “Actuality, Potentiality, and Relativity’s Block Universe.”  The other contributors are Xavi Lanao, Nicholas Teh, Robert Koons, Alexander Pruss, William Simpson, Tuomas Tahko, Christopher Austin, Anna Marmodoro, David Oderberg, Janice Chik, William Jaworski, and Daniel De Haan, with a foreword by John Haldane.  The book is available in hardcover or, for a much lower price, in an electronic version.

Pakaluk on capital punishment

Philosopher Michael Pakaluk kindly provided an endorsement for By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.  In an essay at The Catholic Thing, Mike puts forward an important defense of his own of the death penalty.  Go give it a read.  Along the way, he comments once again on By Man, calling it “the most comprehensive case ever assembled” for capital punishment.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Review of Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back (Updated)

UPDATE 11/19: The review can now be read online for free.

My review of Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds appears in the Fall 2017 issue of the Claremont Review of Books.  (This is the issue that also contains Janet Smith’s review of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed.  Good excuse to buy a copy!)

Smith on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

In the Fall 2017 issue of the Claremont Review of Books, Catholic moral theologian Janet Smith reviews By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.  Writes Smith:

[T]he central argument of [the book is] that some crimes deserve death, and that this is now and has always been the teaching of the Catholic Church.  Anyone who would claim otherwise must contend with Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette’s unparalleled – and I’m tempted to say, irrefutable – marshalling of evidence and logic in this important new book.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Five Proofs around the net

Strange Notions has kindly hosted a Q and A on my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God (which you can order either from Amazon – though they are temporarily out of stock – or directly from Ignatius Press).  They chose ten of the questions submitted and have now posted my responses.  Among the topics that arise are the nature of proof, polytheism, divine simplicity, and the relationship between Thomism and idealism.

Part II of the two-part interview on the book I recently did for The Patrick Coffin Show has now been posted (and can be viewed either at Patrick’s website or at YouTube).  This part is a Q and A session with the audience.  Among the topics that arise are Thomas Nagel, process theology, the problem of evil, and invincible ignorance.

Monday, October 30, 2017

A further reply to Fastiggi, etc.

In an article at Catholic World Report, Robert Fastiggi is critical of the position I have taken vis-à-vis Pope Francis and capital punishment in my recent articles at Catholic Herald and Catholic World Report.   I reply to Fastiggi in a new CWR article.

At Public Discourse, E. Christian Brugger has published a two-part article (here and here) responding critically to By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed.  I have written a detailed reply to Brugger which will appear at Public Discourse soon.  I also recently replied to David McClamrock’s review here at the blog.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

McClamrock on By Man shall His Blood Be Shed

At Today’s Catholic, David McClamrock reviews By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.  It’s a somewhat mixed review.  On the one hand, McClamrock acknowledges that:

The authors do make, and effectively support, many points worthy of serious consideration.  Among them, are in brief: Catholics are not required to favor the abolition of the death penalty.  The church has consistently taught that capital punishment is legitimate in principle, while often pleading for mercy in practice.  Death is a deserved and proportionate punishment for the worst murderers.  The credible prospect of the death penalty prevents crimes and saves lives... Numerous arguments for abolition of the death penalty are weak, ill-founded or even downright stupid

By exploding the view that extreme anti-death-penalty absolutism is the only authentically Catholic position, the work of Feser and Bessette may be helpful in recovering a well-balanced view of capital punishment.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Around the web with Five Proofs

At The Secular Outpost, atheist Bradley Bowen inaugurates what promises to be an interesting series of posts on Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  His verdict so far:

Unlike the cases for God by Geisler and Kreeft, Feser’s case is NOT a Steaming Pile of Crap, and it is a great pleasure to consider a case that at least has the potential to be a reasonable and intelligent case for God.

End quote.  As they say, read the whole thing.  “Feser’s case is NOT a Steaming Pile of Crap” may be my favorite book review ever.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Five Proofs on The Patrick Coffin Show

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Patrick Coffin before a live audience for a special episode of his show.  The subjects were my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God, atheism, and related matters.  You can now watch Part I of the episode at Patrick’s website or at YouTube.  Part II is a Q and A session that will be posted next week.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Reply to Ivereigh, Brugger, Shea, and Fastiggi

My recent Catholic Herald article about Pope Francis and capital punishment has gotten a fair bit of attention.  Some of it has been positive, some of it less so.  In a new essay at Catholic World Report, I respond to four critics – Austen Ivereigh, E. Christian Brugger, Mark Shea, and Robert Fastiggi.