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.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Mind-body interaction: What’s the problem?

Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) philosophers often argue that an advantage of their view of human nature over that of the Cartesian dualist is that they don’t face an interaction problem.  Soul and body are on the A-T view related as formal and material cause of the human being.  Hence they don’t “interact” because they aren’t two substances in the first place, but rather two principles of the same one substance, viz. the human being.  Talk of them “interacting” is a kind of category mistake, like talk about the form of a triangle and the matter that makes up the triangle “interacting.”  So there is no problem of explaining how they interact.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Reply to Mark Shea on capital punishment

Crisis magazine has reprinted the first of the two articles that political scientist Joseph Bessette and I recently wrote for Catholic World Report putting forward a Catholic defense of capital punishment.  (The articles merely summarize briefly some of the lines of argument we develop in detail and at length in our book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty, forthcoming from Ignatius Press.)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Yeah, but is it actually actually infinite?

In response to my recent post about William Lane Craig’s kalām cosmological argument, several readers noted that Craig has replied to an objection like the one I raised, in several places, such as a response to a reader’s question at his Reasonable Faith website, and in his article (co-written with James Sinclair) on the kalām argument in Craig and Moreland’s Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.  Let’s take a look at what he has to say.

Friday, September 2, 2016

A difficulty for Craig’s kalām cosmological argument?

Most versions of the cosmological argument, including those favored by Thomists, are not concerned with trying to show that the universe had a beginning.  The idea is rather that, whether or not the universe had a beginning, it could not remain in existence even for an instant were God not sustaining it in being.  The kalām cosmological argument, however, does try to show that the universe had a beginning.  Most famously associated with thinkers like Al-Ghazali, Bonaventure, and William Lane Craig, it was also famously rejected by Aquinas.  But it is defended by some contemporary Thomists (including David Oderberg).

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Learn it, live it, link it

The Best Schools has posted its list of the 50 most influential living philosophers.

New from R. R. Reno: Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society.  A podcast with Reno about the book at National Review, a video interview at YouTube, and a print interview at Christian Post.

Is the brain a computer?  Philosopher of biology John Wilkins answers “No.” And physicist Edward Witten doesn’t think science will explain consciousness.  Scientific American reports.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Is Islamophilia binding Catholic doctrine?

Catholic writer Robert Spencer’s vigorous criticisms of Islam have recently earned him the ire of a cleric who has accused him of heterodoxy.  Nothing surprising about that, or at least it wouldn’t be surprising if a Muslim cleric were accusing Spencer of contradicting Muslim doctrine.  Turns out, though, that it is a Catholic priest accusing Spencer of contradicting Catholic doctrine. 

Cue the Twilight Zone music.  Book that ticket to Bizarro world while you’re at it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Adventures in the Old Atheism, Part II: Sartre

Having surveyed the wreckage of modern Western civilization from the lofty vantage point of Nietzsche’s Superman, let’s now descend to the lowest depths of existential angst with Jean-Paul Sartre.  So pour some whiskey, put on a jazz LP, and light the cigarette of the hipster girl dressed in black reading Camus at the barstool next to you.  Let’s get Absurd.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Review of Harris on Hume

Just back from a very enjoyable week at the Thomistic seminar in Princeton.  Regular blogging will resume shortly.

In the meantime, my review of Hume: An Intellectual Biography by James A. Harris appears in the Summer 2016  issue of the Claremont Review of Books