Book Plunge: The Last Superstition

What do I think of this book by Edward Feser? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

TheLastSuperstition

As I finished this book, I must say I was disappointed.

I was thoroughly disappointed since I knew that when I went on Amazon I could only give it five stars. Just five! If only I could have somehow doubled that number!

Now that doesn’t mean I agree with everything Feser says. I don’t think he would even want me to after just a read of his book, but I do think he argues his case very well and quite humorously. As a Protestant Thomist, there are differences, but with much of his philosophy and metaphysics I am right there on his side.

Feser is quite angry in this volume, and he has all right to be. The new atheists are a symptom of the way that our thinking is going downhill. It is not because we are becoming more scientific. No no no. That is all well and good. There is no problem with that. It is because we are becoming more and more anti-philosophical.

This despite the fact that there are some philosophers amongst the new atheists. Yet when they do any philosophy, the results are atrocious. It would have been interesting to see what Feser would have written had “The Grand Design” come out already and there had been a response to Hawking saying “Philosophy is dead.”

With this anti-philosophical bias coming in, we are rapidly losing our ability to think well and becoming a more and more immoral people. Feser also ties this in with the cultural acceptance of redefining marriage and also about how he considers abortion one of the most wicked of all evils.

Feser also brings in some strong polemics to this. Why? He is responding to the new atheists with what they have been dishing out and it adds a nice punch to the work. It’s hard to not be amused when you read that Richard Dawkins would not know metaphysics from Metamucil or that Daniel Dennett should have realized that anyone walking around saying “I’m a bright!” looks like an idiot. Also noteworthy is being told that the sophists are still with us today except they’re called lawyers, professors of literary criticism, and Michael Moore.

Surprising to most atheists will be the bare interaction with Scripture or church tradition that Feser has. The only place I recall Scripture being used is in a section talking about the resurrection. This is really the only place in the book that emphasizes Christ as well. Why is there so little mention of Christ and Scripture? Because Feser is showing that if all you have is just the tools of reason, you still have more than enough reason to hold to the existence of God and deal with the new atheism. It could be that Christianity is false and the new atheists are still wrong after all.

Readers of this book will also see a sustained argument that gives you a brief history of philosophy and why people like Parmenides, Heraclitus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas matter. Feser throughout the work shows that the arguments of the new atheism do not hold water and also lack explanatory scope.

Feser also argues that the teleology that Aristotle says exists in reality is inescapable and the more we deny it, the more and more absurd that we become, including describing a couple known as the Churchlands. This is a pair of philosophers who are husband and wife and wish to speak of us as material beings entirely and I mean entirely.

““She said, ‘Paul, don’t speak to me, my serotonin levels have hit bottom, my brain is awash in glucocorticoids, my blood vessels are full of adrenaline, and if it weren’t for my endogenous opiates I’d have driven the car into a tree on the way home. My dopamine levels need lifting. Pour me a Chardonnay, and I’ll be down in a minute.’ ”

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/02/12/two-heads

Feser does point out that as the article says, the Churchlands claim to have shared a lot of Oxytocin over the years, yet I’m guessing this is a claim that doesn’t exactly scream romance. Although, it is humorous to imagine being in a singles bar and going up to a lady and saying “Hey babe. How would you like to have a little Oxytocin tonight?

Feser says that this will be the end result of the thinking of the new atheists. In the end, we will lose morality, we will lose free-will, and in fact, we will lose science itself.

If the new atheists have been looking for a powerful opponent, they have found one in Feser and one who can roll with the punches just as good as they do, if not better. Feser’s sharp wit and powerful argumentation provide a powerful counter to the new atheist movement.

If you want to read the best response I have seen to the new atheists, do yourself a favor and pick up this book. You won’t regret it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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41 Responses to “Book Plunge: The Last Superstition”

  1. labreuer Says:

    Feser is quite angry in this volume, and he has all right to be. The new atheists are a symptom of the way that our thinking is going downhill. It is not because we are becoming more scientific. No no no. That is all well and good. There is no problem with that. It is because we are becoming more and more anti-philosophical.

    To what extent do you think Christians have led the way on this? I’m reminded of the following from Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter Between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought:

    The burden of Wright’s contribution to the seventh volume of The Fundamentals was to discriminate between evolution as a scientific theory of species transmutation and evolutionism as a metaphysical worldview. The word evolution, he noted, “has come into much deserved disrepute by the injection into it of erroneous and harmful theological and philosophical implications. The widely current doctrine of evolution which we are now compelled to combat is one which practically eliminates God from the whole creative process and relegates mankind to the tender mercies of a mechanical universe the wheels of whose machines are left to move on without any immediate Divine direction.” Clearly Wright’s dissatisfaction with evolutionary theory centered less on exegetical questions about the early Genesis narratives than on the materialistic reductionism that had shorn natural history of any teleological element. (148)

    These guys understood the difference between science and philosophy; many fewer Christians seem to, and almost none seem to be able to be very articulate about it. Perhaps they are being articulate in the scholarly realm, but if that realm is not serving the common man, then the scholars would appear to be in violation of the spirit behind Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20.

    • apologianick Says:

      It has been my stance that if the world starts going backwards, it’s because the church led the way.

      • labreuer Says:

        I agree. This makes it all the more sad when Christians blame non-Christians for degradation. Isaiah 58 is so true, especially v9 about “the pointing of the finger”.

        I have experienced an interesting phenomenon in debating atheists and skeptics in the last year: they tend to define what is acceptable behavior by how they perceive me acting. Furthermore, the very definition of “atheist” is often predicated upon not-his-beliefs. Feser has some interesting stuff to say about this mode of definition and reference in Last Superstition.

        After reading bits of Emil Brunner’s Man in Revolt as well as Jacques Ellul’s The Subversion of Christianity, I’m convinced that we humans love to do two things:

        1. Not my fault. (Adam → Eve → Serpent)
        2. Not my problem. (Cain)

        Both are denials of responsibility, without which there can be no true freedom, no true imago dei, no true Christianity.

  2. labreuer Says:

    With this anti-philosophical bias coming in, we are rapidly losing our ability to think well and becoming a more and more immoral people. Feser also ties this in with the cultural acceptance of redefining marriage and also about how he considers abortion one of the most wicked of all evils.

    I personally like the following:

    Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (1 Jn 3:4)

    For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom 10:4)

    ‘lawlessness’ = anomia
    ‘law’ = nomos
    ‘end’ = telos

    We are becoming more lawless (and thus immoral) by our denial of the spirit of law (teleology). Jesus is the telos of the nomos; he is the Logos. The worship of finite nomos is guaranteed to lead to bad growth, unpruned growth. We humans are going to grow; the only question is whether it is on a trellis where it can be given structure and be pruned, or whether it will be wild growth. See Isaiah 5:1–7: God planted for grapes but got wild grapes. Huh, I wonder whether this connects to Ezek 18:1–3.

  3. tildeb Says:

    Labreuer, you say I’m convinced that we humans love to do two things:

    1. Not my fault. (Adam → Eve → Serpent)
    2. Not my problem. (Cain)

    Both are denials of responsibility, without which there can be no true freedom, no true imago dei, no true Christianity.

    Here comes the ‘Fesser, who claims the wife-beating defense: he has to be personally nasty to those gnus (hit the wife) because they force him to be nasty (she makes me do it!)!

    That looks suspiciously like the ‘Fesser demonstrates your first in this book. It’s no wonder Nick is so enamored… the tone is fine if directed towards those ansty gnus but we must remain strictly civil in tone if speaking with theists or we become ‘militant’!

    Look, the ‘Fesser’s thesis has been thoroughly criticized successfully for his reliance on the Aristotelian notion of causes. Unbeknownst to him, apparently, is the fact that Galileo nailed this coffin shut long ago, that this metaphysical framework he tries to resurrect from the grave to act as the basis for his argument doesn’t work to model reality accurately. Some people with their heads and egos stuck up their philosophically delightful nether regions just don’t seem to get why. Help can be found for this compulsive desire for osculating Aristotle’s (and Aquinas’) metaphysical posteriors.

    Although the axiomatic Aristotelian framework about empirical causes looks so lovely to so many glamored by the metaphysics, reality doesn’t support it. Unlike the ‘Fesser’s assumption – that causes can be arranged in nice ordered chains – reality just doesn’t accord with it… based not on some hypothetical philosophical/metaphysical counter argument but on what we know about the way the universe actually works.

    Bummer, eh?

    • apologianick Says:

      Would you care to demonstrate that Aristotle’s metaphysics was dependent on his physics?

      Feser deals specifically with that claim.

      You’d know if you’d read the book.

      Bummer eh?

      • tildeb Says:

        Would I care to demonstrate that Aristotle’s metaphysics was dependent on his physics?

        No. I have no need for that hypothesis.

      • apologianick Says:

        Oh good. Then since Galileo did not do away with the metaphysics the charge is bunk. Thank you!

      • tildeb Says:

        Let me fix that for you: The right question to ask is how did Galileo (the ‘giant’ on whose shoulders Newton later stood) demonstrate why the metaphysical justification used by Aristotelian for his ‘natural’ physics was incorrect?

        I wonder if you can discern the important difference in quality between your question and mine and how that directly correlates the quality of the answers… assuming that we seek good answers to important questions about reality in these waters rather than a Gordian Knot of muddied wordplay producing ineffable and nebulous meaning often mistaken for depth.

      • apologianick Says:

        Well if you think that Galileo disproved Aristotle’s metaphysics, that’s up to you to demonstrate. Every claim in physics Aristotle made could still be wrong and the metaphysics fine because the metaphysics does not depend on the physics.

    • labreuer Says:

      Have you read Last Superstition?

      That looks suspiciously like the ‘Fesser demonstrates your first in this book. It’s no wonder Nick is so enamored… the tone is fine if directed towards those ansty gnus but we must remain strictly civil in tone if speaking with theists or we become ‘militant’!

      I’ve read both Last Superstition and The God Delusion. Feser is light-years better than Dawkins. Expect perfection and you will be disappointed. Expect ‘better-than’ building upon ‘better-than’, and you might just get somewhere. It is the difference between idealism and realism.

      [1] Look, the ‘Fesser’s thesis has been thoroughly criticized successfully for his reliance on the Aristotelian notion of causes. [2] Unbeknownst to him, apparently, is the fact that Galileo nailed this coffin shut long ago, that this metaphysical framework he tries to resurrect from the grave to act as the basis for [3] his argument doesn’t work to model reality accurately.

      Please provide evidence/argument for [1] and [3] (I am looking for the best critics of Feser’s claims). Please provide evidence for [2].

      Bummer, eh?

      I have bets on the teleology horse, not on Aristotle’s Four Causes. Science doesn’t even make sense out of a telos: “to model reality increasingly well”. Feser points out that it’s amusing to watch people with the purpose of proving there is no purpose. The mechanism-affirming, teleology-denying conception of how reality works turns out to be incredibly damaging to psychology and the other social sciences; see here for more.

      • tildeb Says:

        Does this mean you don’t think the ‘Fesser uses the wide-beater defense?

      • labreuer Says:

        First: have you read Last Superstition?

        Second: please defend your claims which I questioned, or retract them.

        Does this mean you don’t think the ‘Fesser uses the wide-beater defense?

        No, what I said, I said precisely and intentionally. Are you able to discern “better-than”? Is that enough, or do you demand perfection before any criticism can be offered whatsoever? If the latter, why are you offering criticism?

    • Thomas Henry Larsen Says:

      Although the axiomatic Aristotelian framework about empirical causes looks so lovely to so many glamored by the metaphysics, reality doesn’t support it. Unlike the ‘Fesser’s assumption – that causes can be arranged in nice ordered chains – reality just doesn’t accord with it… based not on some hypothetical philosophical/metaphysical counter argument but on what we know about the way the universe actually works.

      Can you give an example to illustrate what you mean by that?

      • tildeb Says:

        Sure. Bear with me.

        As Galileo showed, causes are not ordered as Aristotle presumed, and it is on this foundation that the ‘Feser upholds Aquinas’ metaphysical ‘proof’ for the need of a First Cause/Mover. And therein lies the fatal assumption: motion requiring an external cause (because causes are so ordered!). Reality does not support this model.

        Unbeknownst to Aristotle and Aquinas, everything in the universe has the power of movement in itself. Everything does NOT require an external mover. When we talk of some change that requires a cause – including coming into existence – this, after all is said and done, is what we mean: motion. The ‘Feser slips into talking about ‘movement’ but by this he really means ‘change’. Changes, in reality, are the result of forces at work, and forces are part of the nature of those fundamental particles from which everything is made. They are in fact internal and their motion does not require an external initiator as Aristotle assumed and upon which Aquinas presented his Five Arguments.

        It is a property of large particles to exert a gravitational force, of charged particles to exert the electromagnetic force, and so on. (Particles also exist in fields of forces and fields themselves have properties and interact.) No external ‘mover’ is required. What this means, contrary to Aquinas’ understanding built on Aristotle’s misunderstanding of motion is that any particle (or collection of particles) can be the “first mover” in whatever causal series he cares to introduce. This utterly destroys any justification for some guided purpose. Interactions simply happen.

        In addition, these interactions of particles in fields are not necessarily linear as in a chain (again, a necessary assumption to link causes back to the Prime Mover using Aristotelian physics) but simultaneous with various interactive forces at work. Again, this is reality and it does not support the Aristotelian linear model.

        You see, the problem with Aristotelian metaphysics is that it is used within its own axiomatic framework. This is fine if this is as far as we take it. The problem arises when we leave this artificial framework and try to apply the same conclusions to reality’s framework. Premises that seemed fine in the Aristotelian metaphysical model (and accepted as fine) suddenly meet a new challenge where what we find in reality no longer supports the previously accepted premises.

        Too often we forget this requirement – that the premises have to be correct first to justify conclusions built on them – and struggle to justify the conclusions we have reached in one framework when applied to another. This is the ‘Feser’s blunder. He’s not alone.

        The problem isn’t the logic or reasoning of the metaphysical conclusions using Aristotelian physics; it’s simply the wrong tool to apply in reality’s framework because the physics of reality shows us that its metaphysical premises don’t work. They don’t describe the reality we encounter. That’s why we have to let reality arbitrate claims made about it, which is what modern physics does and to very great effect, and stop presuming that Aristotelian physics can do this job. Clearly, it can’t, but embracing Aristotelian metaphysics and then applying it to the real world as if it arbitrates reality can and does divert and mislead us from respecting reality’s role to arbitrate claims made about. This is the ‘Feser’s failure.

        Understanding and appreciating why using reality to justify claims made about it is central to justifying conclusions made about them was Galileo’s greatest contribution and one that Newton was able to build upon in order to create a new metaphysical framework – a new kind of math – to help us describe it accurately.

        I hope that helps.

      • apologianick Says:

        A few problems here.

        First off, things don’t have the power of change within themselves. After all, if they did, why do they not change immediately? Why are they still unchanged? The reason is that certain forces haven’t acted on them yet whatever those forces might be.

        Second, you have the idea of something linear. The system is not linear however. In fact, Feser makes this clear in TLS. (Have you even read it?) The chain is entirely interlocking. Aquinas even said you couldn’t know if the universe had a beginning by reason alone. There is an infinite regress Aquinas wants to avoid, yes, but it’s not the linear kind.

        Third, I’ve already said we can jettison Aristotle’s physics so I don’t know why you’re still talking about the physics for some strange reason.

        So have you read TLS?

      • labreuer Says:

        Nick, I think this is a fantastic example of how @tildeb deflects or just ignores when his presuppositions and claims are questioned in a way he cannot defend. Christians do this too, of course. I’m just amused at how @tildeb presents himself as a reasonable person, but that reasonableness vanishes without a trace when you really prod and poke. If @tildeb continues this behavior enough, I suggest writing him off as someone not interested in pursuing more truth than the truth he thinks he knows. He could always reverse said writing-off by going back to comments he has ignored or deflected from, and actually address them in an intellectually honest fashion.

      • labreuer Says:

        What interpretation of QM is your current favorite, tildeb? Also: have you come across Sean Carroll’s “quantum fluctuations do not happen” idea, which is predicated upon an Everett MWI interpretation?

        >

  4. Thomas Henry Larsen Says:

    @tildeb, thanks for your response. There are several points you alluded to (e.g. final causality) that interest me, but it might be helpful first to unpack what you mean by this paragraph in particular:

    In addition, these interactions of particles in fields are not necessarily linear as in a chain (again, a necessary assumption to link causes back to the Prime Mover using Aristotelian physics) but simultaneous with various interactive forces at work. Again, this is reality and it does not support the Aristotelian linear model.

    I ask because Feser (by the way, can we make this an academic discussion and stop writing ‘Fesser? C’mon, play nice) makes it clear in The Last Superstition (p. 93 and elsewhere) that, with respect to Aquinas’ First Way, he has “essentially ordered causal series” in mind, and

    things are very different with essentially ordered causal series. These sorts of series paradigmatically trace, not backwards in time, but rather “downward” in the present moment, since they are series in which each member depends simultaneously on other members which simultaneously depend in turn on yet others, and so on In this sort of series, the later members have no independent causal power of their own, being mere instruments of a first member.

    That’s Feser emphasis, by the way, not mine. In light of this, what did you mean by the paragraph you wrote earlier? Did you have some other sense of causation in mind?

    • tildeb Says:

      Yes, the ‘Feser is a very slippery and clever-as-a-duck fellow and he does not deserve strict academic respect for this polemic against New Atheists. His axe is not to parse what’s true but to grind against New Atheists. Because I find his reasoning obnoxiously arrogant and his motivation so full of his own righteous certitude, I think of him as the very worst kind of professor to have to endure. Using the sound of his name with the term professor for my own droll amusement, I think of him as the ‘Feser. I apologise for the earlier misspelling with the double s. My poor editing skills on display.

      I distrust the ‘Feser’s assurances about interpreting Aquinas’ First Way correctly. Clearly, Aquinas says “whatever is moved must be moved by another.” Hating clarity (my assumption), Aquinas cannot let this stand and so continues, “If that by which it is moved be itself moved, then this also must needs be moved by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover (Duh! And so we can’t have that, now can we?), and, consequently no other mover are moved by the first mover… and this everyone understands to be God.”

      This is the very definition of linear causal effect with motion as the evidence being used, which the ‘Feser then needs to obfuscate in order to keep his ‘sophisticated’ reading of it not just superior to us plebeian atheists but resurrected to be relevant to disparaging New Atheists who understand why Aquinas’ argument here is factually wrong. And we can’t tolerate that. So the ‘Feser must incorporate particle self-movement… with nary an ‘another’ on the horizon. He just strings together a bunch of ‘simultaneous” to describe the linear model as now descending in a causal chain.

      But it’s still a chain model (and it’s still wrong) so Aquinas must be right!

      Magic, see? The ‘Feser doing his Thang resurrecting Aquinas’ First Way by the wave of the ‘Feser’s silver tongue and turning the meaning of ‘simultaneous’ and ‘particle self-movement physics’ into ‘linear’ and ‘another’. Voila! And those New Atheists are just to stupid to properly marvel.

      • labreuer Says:

        @tildeb, do you understand the difference between:

             (1) local causation vs. nonlocal causation
             (2) linear systems vs. nonlinear systems

        ? Some of what you say with “linear causation” seems like it might match (1) more than (2). Furthermore, are you aware that in quantum mechanics, the time-evolution of wavefunctions is distinctly linear? There is On (Non)Linear Quantum Mechanics, but it is gauge equivalent to linear QM. Now, the precise nature of how nonlinear effects could be built up from linear time-evolution is an issue that fascinates me; one way is to have a [non-local] field which can accelerate local particles.

        P.S. You consistently ignore the question of whether you’ve actually read Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism. I think the most reasonable conclusion from this absence of evidence is that you have not. I find that curious; I wonder if you get pissed off when people judge books without having read them. I shall have to note this, in your future comments.

      • Thomas Henry Larsen Says:

        @tildeb:

        “Motion,” historically, simply means change – “the reduction of potency to act.” It does not mean local motion exclusively. This is precisely the kind of misunderstanding that Feser clears up in The Last Superstition, and he knows what he’s talking about.

        Perhaps you think Feser doesn’t understand Aquinas’ First Way properly – if that’s so, could you show how he has misunderstood it?

        (Do you consider yourself a New Atheist, out of curiosity?)

      • tildeb Says:

        “the reduction of potency to act” in Aquinas’ terminology means between potentiality and actuality. This is important when Aquinas incorrectly attributes potentiality to be in the things themselves. He use the example of the heat of a fire to be potential in the wood itself that is then actualized when it is caused to burn. This directs us to make a false conclusion, that wood possesses the potential to burn in order to become actual. But that’s not true: all things – not wood – possess this potentiality to change states and release heat if subjected to a force that breaks apart the molecular bonds. He could have just as easily suggested fish, but this wouldn’t suit his purpose to establish a separate and distinct Prime Mover that inserts potential to form the ‘nature’ of things. Aquinas uses this analogy with motion of things, suggesting that movement is potential in the thing itself – in the way heat is potential in wood to explain the heat of fire – before it can be actualized. This is the mistake, attributing to specific things properties common to all, and then drawing conclusions about the nature of things intentionally inserted by some divine agency.

        No.

        Galileo found out this wasn’t true: motion is not kept in potential in specific things actualized when they move but is a property of forces acting on all things. The property attributed to the specific thing is not held in the thing until actualized; these things themselves are the prime mover of themselves in that all things exert these forces on all other things. There is no need for a Prime Mover, no insertion of potential, no ‘nature’ of things!

        I think the ‘Feser understands perfectly well that the First Way is factually wrong. But I think this Way offers him the best avenue to resuscitate the old Aristotelian metaphysical arguments by tweaking the terminology to make it seem to be compatible with reality. And I suspect he does this in order to promote himself as a serious critic of Dawkins and worthy of similar temporal writing success as all of the Four Horsemen as well as to rationalize his intellectual capitulation for his return to Catholicism.

        That’s why the ‘Feser’s greatest cheerleaders are the Thomists.

        Yes, I consider myself a New Atheist because I think religious privilege in the public domain has a pernicious influence… not especially Catholicism but it ranks in my top two as the worst of the worst (and an international criminal organization to boot). I think this influence that supports religious belief is identical in method to the influence that supports all forms of woo. I think this method and those subjects that use it as a means to justify belief in woo requires more critical and very public evaluation. Specifically, I think younger people need greater exposure to these critiques and less exposure to those who try to sell them on and apologize for special exemptions based on credulity and gullibility.

        Aquinas is hard work to understand and I suspect this is why the ‘Feser like to rely on him as a shield against legitimate criticisms of woo peddling. But that’s all it is: a shield and not a doorway to knowledge and wisdom.

      • apologianick Says:

        You’ve never read the book have you? Feser makes a distinction between potentialities inherent to an object and those that require an external force.

        You’re demonstrating my point on new atheists doing shoddy research.

      • tildeb Says:

        Why would I buy a book by someone who wishes to pillory New Atheists for the sake of ego gratification? Not gunna happen.

        I have read many of his articles and followed his arguments carefully on several web sites including his own. I am quite familiar with why Thomists love this guy.

        My original point was to show that he uses the wife beating defense and this linked directly to labreuer’s first point of those who are demonstrating true Christianity (the ‘Feser!) yet you seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed his militant tone and wide-of-the-mark complaining about New Atheists without so much as a peep of criticism you seem to reserve strictly for gnus.

        You ignore this point.

        I went on to explain in general terms why the ‘Feser is held in such low regard by those he presumes are so ignorant of the sophisticated theology he has gleaned from Aquinas’ Articles when he himself fails to understand why the Five Ways are not supported by reality.

      • apologianick Says:

        It must be nice to know the arguments in a book one has never read.

        Meanwhile, I buy books by new atheists because I care about learning their arguments and getting them right.

        Thanks for demonstrating the shoddy research of the new atheists by your own actions.

      • tildeb Says:

        I am familiar with the ‘Feser’s venomous griping about New Atheists and his whining that they don’t know the best arguments for gods in general and his god in particular because they aren’t literate enough for his tastes in philosophy. It’s the Courtier’s Reply, and it’s bunk. He just dresses it up with his disdain and gains allies who don’t realize why they’re been duped.

        People are atheists for all kinds of reasons, some more academically grounded than others. New Atheists are New not because they are atheists but because they decry religious privilege publicly for reasons that stand unimpeachable by such malicious and churlish attacks that the ‘Feser loves to make with his ‘I used to be an atheist when I was young and stupid and didn’t know any better’ schtick. I’ve read enough of the ‘Feser and enough of works of philosophers and theologians to know that when it comes to making claims about the reality of their gods they talk between themselves about a subject that has no object.

        All the ‘Feser needs to do to compare and contrast the real world effects of believing as he does that Catholicism is the best path his philosophy tells him is so divine is to look to the effects that the Catholic inspired laws of El Salvador under the watchful eye of Opus Dei have produced… especially concerning the law’s treatment women’s reproductive rights. It must make him proud to see his philosophy in action.

      • Thomas Henry Larsen Says:

        I am familiar with the ‘Feser’s venomous griping about New Atheists and his whining that they don’t know the best arguments for gods in general and his god in particular because they aren’t literate enough for his tastes in philosophy. It’s the Courtier’s Reply, and it’s bunk.

        You’re not doing a very good job of showing, by example, that his “venomous griping” is mistaken. *yawn*

      • tildeb Says:

        The point I’m raising is that the best arguments the ‘Feser wants New Atheists to philosophically address is not what what New Atheists are all about. This is a diversion that too many theists think addresses the New Atheist movement. It doesn’t.

        The best arguments in favour of the New Atheists movement are what religions DO when empowered by privilege in the public domain. And what it does is cause harm and suffering. And these demonstrations are worth criticizing in the strongest possible terms because of their real world effects, causing real harm to real people in real life. Of course, the ‘Feser doesn;t want to have to defend this; he wants to blame the messenger.

        What the ‘Feser does is ignore this high cost in harm and human suffering caused by privileging religious belief in his quest to elevate himself as some Great Defender of God by vilifying those who try to bring an end to this privileging. Theists swayed into supporting this stupidity demonstrate their gullibility by thinking the ‘Feser serves some noble purpose.

        But New Atheists see through this charade and revile the tactic the ‘Feser employs as nothing more that despicable posturing while the harm and suffering caused by exercising religious privilege continues under the guise of acquiescence to piety. He can certainly fool some of the people all of the time but his counter argument to New Atheism misses the target altogether.

      • apologianick Says:

        *takes a sniff* Smells like fish….Maybe Red Herring….Anyone else smelling that?

      • labreuer Says:

        @tildeb’s need to use “the ‘Feser” and his unwillingness to dig more deeply than a certain level are certainly two HUGE indicators. If I didn’t know better, I would suspect him of being a very sophisticated commenting bot. He even makes valid criticisms, against some forms of Christinaity. His error is ‘some’ ⇒ ‘all’.

        >

      • apologianick Says:

        The main reason I don’t stop him from commenting is because the way I see it, he’s doing me a favor. He’s demonstrating with every post the bankruptcy of atheism and the lack of research atheists do. This post is an excellent example. Ironically, another great example is when he commented on my post “The Shoddy Research of the New Atheists.”

      • labreuer Says:

        That’s fine. I’m just worried that I myself am being drawn into wasting time on people like him, after I’ve collected sufficient evidence that he is not interested in what is true, and after having given ways to demonstrate that I am wrong in said judgment (e.g. he could respond to points I have made which I have emphasized are important, which he has ignored). If the enemy cannot get you to turn, he can at least fill up your life with busywork!

      • apologianick Says:

        That’s also one reason I like it when other people show up here. I’m a busy guy too.

      • tildeb Says:

        The new atheists are a symptom of the way that our thinking is going downhill…It is because we are becoming more and more anti-philosophical.

        The New Atheist’s thinking is to stop privileging religion for the harm and suffering it causes. The philosophical justifications used by the Church fathers are insufficient to justify claims for this privilege. Hence the Aquinas criticisms – a philosophical foundation for the ‘Feser’s criticism.

        With this anti-philosophical bias coming in, we are rapidly losing our ability to think well and becoming a more and more immoral people.

        If thinking well was the prerequisite for moral claims, we’d have no religion.

        Feser is showing that if all you have is just the tools of reason, you still have more than enough reason to hold to the existence of God and deal with the new atheism. It could be that Christianity is false and the new atheists are still wrong after all.

        Sorry, Nick. Being fooled into believing that religion’s veneer of reason is equivalent to good reasoning doesn’t mean New Atheism is dealt with. New Atheism is a response to religious privilege and not to a philosophical position.

        Feser throughout the work shows that the arguments of the new atheism do not hold water and also lack explanatory scope.

        The arguments of New Atheists are based on criticizing religious privilege for pernicious effects. These pernicious effects are not mitigated by pretending they are philosophically justified positions. That’s why the battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation is trending away from religion across the board.

        Feser says that this (scientism) will be the end result of the thinking of the new atheists. In the end, we will lose morality, we will lose free-will, and in fact, we will lose science itself.

        Good thing few if any people actually believe and exercise scientism then. This creation exists only in the ,minds of people like the ‘Feser.

        (The Last Superstition) the best response I have seen to the new atheists.

        You’ve been fooled before, Nick, and this is no different. The ‘Feser doesn’t address what the New Atheists are all about: criticizing religious privilege in the public domain. That’s why this book is simply self-promotion like a parasite trying to feed off the literary success of New Atheist writers.

        Red herring? Hardly.

      • apologianick Says:

        SO I’ve been fooled on TLS?

        Well tell us all about it since you know so well a book you’ve never read!

        I wish I could be like Tilde and know all about books without ever having to read them!

        Tell you what, if you don’t want to buy the book, there are places called “Libraries.” That’s where I got my copy of TLS from.

      • labreuer Says:

        The New Atheist’s thinking is to stop privileging religion for the harm and suffering it causes.

        Oh, religion has definitely caused plenty of harm and suffering. So has ¬religion, in fact. It’s almost as if it is human nature to end up harming other people, often by a long chain of rationalization. See, for example, from famous sociologist Peter Berger:

            Another exaggeration may have been the conventional view of the reach of scientific rationality. One does not have to look at religion only in order to find this thought plausible. It is amazing what people educated to the highest levels of scientific rationality are prepared to believe by way of irrational prejudices; one only has to look at the political and social beliefs of the most educated classes of Western societies to gain an appreciation of this. Just one case: What Western intellectuals over the last decades have managed to believe about the character of Communist societies is alone sufficient to cast serious doubt on the proposition that rationality is enhanced as a result of scientifically sophisticated education or of living in a modern technological society. (A Far Glory, 30)

        Or from his Facing Up to Modernity:

        Even if it were true that socialism is the only rational conclusion, this would not explain its dissemination among specific social groups. Modern science, for example, may also be described as the only rational conclusion for certain questions about nature—and yet it took millennia before it came to be established in specific groups in a specific corner of the world. Ideas neither triumph nor fail in history because of their intrinsic truth or falsity. Furthermore, the affinity between intellectuals and socialism is clearly more than a matter of rational arguments. It is suffused with values, with moral passion, in many cases with profoundly religious hope—in sum, with precisely those characteristics which permit speaking of a socialist myth (in a descriptive, nonpejorative sense.) (58)

        The socialist myth promises the fulfillment of both the rational dreams of the Enlightenment and the manifold aspirations of those to whom the Enlightenment has been an alienating experience. Such a promise inevitably grates against its imperfect realization in empirical reality, frustrating and often enraging its believers. This is nothing new in the long history of eschatologies, which is inevitably a history of the psychology of disappointment. (62–3)

        It’s not religion that causes harm, it’s (a) not caring about some of your fellow men enough to ensure their well-being; (b) not being sufficiently connected to reality. It turns out that religion and ¬religion can do both of these, perhaps equally well!

      • labreuer Says:

        Why would I buy a book by someone who wishes to pillory New Atheists for the sake of ego gratification? Not gunna happen.

        Good to see you finally admit this. Now, do you think The God Delusion, Letter to a Christian Nation, and God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything were written “for the sake of ego gratification”?

        I have read many of his articles and followed his arguments carefully on several web sites including his own.

        Ahh, but you’ve never read his most scholarly, most comprehensive work, where he would be most likely to deal with niggling complaints? Ok then.

        My original point was to show that he uses the wife beating defense and this linked directly to labreuer’s first point of those who are demonstrating true Christianity (the ‘Feser!)

        And yet you have no idea whether Feser uses said defense in Last Superstition, for you have not read it. You are getting dangerously close to slander, @tildeb. I can personally attest to Feser admitting that he is pissed off at New Atheists and decided to let it show. This is very different from your “wife-beating defense”.

      • labreuer Says:

        Galileo found out this wasn’t true: motion is not kept in potential in specific things actualized when they move but is a property of forces acting on all things. The property attributed to the specific thing is not held in the thing until actualized; these things themselves are the prime mover of themselves in that all things exert these forces on all other things. There is no need for a Prime Mover, no insertion of potential, no ‘nature’ of things!

        Did you come up with this yourself, or can you cite some scholars? I am fascinated by this argument of yours, but your general refusal to dig deeply into issues is quite frustrating. Intellectually honest scholars are both willing to dig deeply and get paid to. What you’re doing here, of course is smudging the distinction between particles and fields, between particulars and universals. Such an attitude would spell doom for science if it were carried to its logical conclusion.

      • tildeb Says:

        Labreuer, I understand your frustration. I have done plenty of digging on my own and don’t wish to redo the task using tools of someone else’s preference. I wrote my Masters thesis on this topic of how Galileo major contribution was dismantling the Aristotelian notion of ‘natures’ by experimentation and demonstration – and why this new method so effectively undermined the Catholic Church’s justifications for their catechism. That’s why I know the ‘Feser doesn’t get it. His argument is lost because his cell phone works.

  5. Jason Says:

    In other words Labreuer, “crickets.”

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