judicialsupport

Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

Archive for the tag “aristotle”

Liberalism and Islam

This is from edwardfeser.blogspot.com which you can find here.  This blog is written by Edward Feser who is a Christian philosopher who I have been recently introduced to who I think provides effective clear, sobering, and direct responses to the advance of secular culture.

Here is a portion of recent piece of his which I thought was rather edifying:

Note: What follows is pretty long, especially if you think of it as a blog post.  So think of it instead as an article.  The topic does not, in any event, lend itself to brevity.  Nor do I think it ideal to break up the flow of the argument by dividing the piece into multiple posts.  So here it is in one lump.  It is something of a companion piece to my recent post about whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  Critics of that post will, I think, better understand it in light of this one.

 

In an article in The New Criterion over a decade ago, the late political scientist Kenneth Minogue noted a developing tendency in contemporary progressivism toward “Christophobia,” a movement beyond mere disbelief in Christian doctrine toward outright hostility.  The years since have hardly made Minogue’s observation less timely.  The New Atheism, the first stirrings of which Minogue cited in the article, came to full prominence (and acquired the “New Atheism” label) later in the decade in which he wrote.  The Obama administration’s attempt to impose its contraception mandate on Catholic institutions evinces a disdain for rights of conscience that would have horrified earlier generations of liberals.  Opponents of “same-sex marriage” have in recent years found themselves subject to loss of employment, cyber-mobbing, and even death threats — all in the name of progressivism.  If contempt for Christian moral teaching still hides behind a mask of liberal neutrality, Hillary Clinton let that mask slip further still when she recently insisted that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” in order to accommodate easy access to abortion.  Not all liberals approve of these developments, of course.  But demographic trends indicate that a Christophobic brand of progressivism may have little difficulty finding new recruits.
Now, how do contemporary liberals view Islam?  How would one expect them to, given their principles, and given the principles and practice of Islam?  Consider that, like Christianity, Islamic moral teaching unequivocally condemns homosexual behavior, extramarital sex, and the sexual revolution in general.  Feminism has, to put it mildly, had little effect on Islam, which is traditionally highly patriarchal.  In Islam, men can have multiple wives, but wives cannot have multiple husbands.  Men can marry non-Muslim women, but women cannot marry non-Muslim men.  The authority of husbands over wives goes far beyond anything feminists objected to in 1950s America.  Rules governing divorce, custody of children, inheritance, and legal testimony all strongly favor men.  In many modern Muslim countries, the implementation of this patriarchal system takes forms which modern Western women would find unimaginably repressive.  Women are expected to cover their bodies in public to a greater or lesser extent, the burqa being the most extreme case.  In Saudi Arabia, women are forbidden to drive, to go out in public without a chaperone, or to interact with men to whom they are not related.  In some Muslim countries, husbands have a right to discipline their wives with beatings.  In some, female genital mutilation is widely practiced.  “Honor killings” of women thought to have brought shame upon their families often occur not only in Muslim countries, but in Western countries with large Muslim populations.  Of course, not all Muslims approve of all of this.  Nor or is it by any means the whole story about women in Islamic society, and Muslims emphasize the way Islam improved the situation of women compared to pre-Islamic Arabia.   The point, though, is that it is far from being a marginal part of the story. ”

You can read the rest here.

The Absolute Truth About Relativism

This is from edwardfeser.blogspot.com which you can find here.  This blog is written by Edward Feser who is a Christian philosopher who I have been recently introduced to who I think provides effective clear, sobering, and direct responses to the advance of secular culture.

Here is a portion of recent piece of his which I thought was rather edifying:

“I don’t write very often about relativism.  Part of the reason is that few if any of the critics I find myself engaging with — for example, fellow analytic philosophers of a secular or progressive bent, or scientifically inclined atheists — take relativism any more seriously than I do.  It just doesn’t come up.  Part of the reason is that many other people have more or less already said what needs to be said about the subject.  It’s been done to death.
It is also possible to overstate the prevalence of relativism outside the ranks of natural scientists, analytic philosophers, theists, and other self-consciously non-relativist thinkers.

As Michael Lynch notes in his book True to Life: Why Truth Matters, remarks that can superficially seem to be expressions of relativism might, on more careful consideration, turn out to have a different significance.  For example, when, during a conversation on some controversial subject, someone says something like “Well, it’s a matter of opinion” or “Who’s to say?”, this may not be intended to imply that there is no objective fact of the matter about which view is correct.  The person may instead have simply decided that the discussion has reached an uncomfortable impasse and would like to change the subject.

On the other hand, many people seem not to understand the difference between the claim that there is no agreement about such-and-such and the claim that there is no objective truth of the matter about such-and-such.  Hence even many people who are primarily concerned to assert the first proposition rather than the second may nevertheless affirm the second one too if pressed.  And in that case they are at least implicitly relativists.  Thus, while Lynch is right that there are probably fewer self-conscious relativists than meets the eye, that is not necessarily because the people in question are all self-consciously non-relativist.  Many people just have confused or inchoate ideas about these things.”

You can read the rest here.

Marriage Inflation

This is from edwardfeser.blogspot.com which you can find here.  This blog is written by Edward Feser who is a Christian philosopher who I have been recently introduced to who I think provides effective clear, sobering, and direct responses to the advance of secular culture.

Here is a portion of recent piece of his which I thought was rather edifying:

Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion

If you printed a lot of extra money and passed it around so as to make everyone wealthier, the end result would merely be dramatically to decrease the buying power of money.  If you make it easier for college students to get an “A” grade in their courses, the end result will be that “A” grades will come to be regarded as a much less reliable indicator of a student’s true merit.  If you give prizes to everyone who participates in a competition, winning a prize will cease to be a big deal.  In general, where X is perceived to have greater value than Y and you try to raise the value of Y by assimilating it to X, the actual result will instead be simply to lower the value of X to that of Y.

You will also merely relocate rather than eliminate the inequality you were trying to get rid of.  If money loses its value, then people will trade in something else — precious metals, durable goods, or whatever — and a different sort of economic inequality will arise.  If grades can no longer tell you which students are most likely to do well as employees or in graduate school, you’ll find some other way of determining this — writing samples, interviews, letters of recommendation, or whatever — and the hierarchy of student achievement will reassert itself.  If getting a prize ceases to impress, then athletes and others engaged in competitive enterprises will simply find some other way to stand out from the pack.

Egalitarian schemes, in short, often have great inflationary effect but little actual egalitarian effect.  They can amount to mere exercises in mutual make-believe.  You can pretend all you want that all the children in Lake Wobegon are above average.  People who wish it were true may even go along with the pretense.  But of course, it isn’t true, and deep down everybody knows it isn’t true.  Hence even many who do pretend to believe it will act otherwise.  There will be a lot of pious chatter about how special all the children are, but no one will take the chatter very seriously and everyone will in practice treat the children differently according to their actual, differing abilities.”

You can read the rest here.

 

 

Aristotle watches Blade Runner

This is from edwardfeser.blogspot.com which you can find here.  This blog is written by Edward Feser who is a Christian philosopher who I have been recently introduced to who I think provides effective clear, sobering, and direct responses to the advance of secular culture.

Here is a portion of recent piece of his which I thought was rather edifying:

“You can never watch Blade Runner too many times, and I’m due for another viewing.  In D. E. Wittkower’s anthology Philip K. Dick and Philosophy, there’s an article by Ross Barham which makes some remarks about the movie’s famous “replicants” and their relationship to human beings which are interesting though, in my view, mistaken.  Barham considers how we might understand the two kinds of creature in light of Aristotle’s four causes, and suggests that this is easier to do with replicants than with human beings.  This is, I think, the reverse of the truth.  But Barham’s reasons are not hard to understand given modern assumptions (which Aristotle would reject) about nature in general and human nature in particular.

Barham suggests that, where replicants are concerned, a four-cause analysis would look something like this: their efficient cause is the Tyrell Corporation and its engineers; their material cause is to be found in the biological and mechanical constituents out of which they are constructed; their formal cause is the human-like pattern on which the Tyrell Corporation designed them; and their final cause is to function as human-like slave laborers.”

You can read the rest here.

Book Review: After Virtue, by Alasdair MacIntyre

After Virtue (see more about it here), is a philosophy of ethics book by philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre which is, arguably, one of the most important works in the genre in the twentieth century (you can read a good summary of it here).

I must admit that I am not a philosopher, and have only recently (and, I am ashamed to say, very belatedly), really delved into the subject.  So, as a result, some parts of this book were a little difficult for me to slog through. Difficult not because it is poorly written or hard to understand but, rather, because my own knowledge base is somewhat limited.  As a result, I had to read a few of the pages a few times just to ensure I knew what the argument was or to what it was referring.  Aside from that, though, the book is not written in such a way to make it inscrutable or so technically only professionals could really appreciate it.  It just takes a little work sometimes.

The primary thesis of the book is that the Enlightenment, and after that modernism and post-modernism, having jettisoned the traditional underpinning of Western Civilization (namely Christianity and, before that, Aristotelianism), and the teleological understanding of reality that goes with it, are simply philosophically incapable of providing an individual and/or society with a system of virtues (or ethics or morals) that is, or can be, anything other than something binding and convincing to the individual alone.  In other words, the Enlightenment (and post-Enlightenment) have reduced virtues, ethics, and morals to simply personal preference, without any objective basis or general applicability.  In short, a system of virtues, if it is to have any meaning and applicability, must be based upon objectivity and truth, but the Enlightenment (and post-Enlightenment) rejects objectivity and truth and, therefore, handicaps itself from any ability to develop a system of virtues.  MacIntyre reviews a variety of Enlightenment (and post-Enlightenment) thinkers who have tried to develop a system of virtues and reveals each of them fundamentally in conflict with one another despite all claiming the same intellectual heritage in the Enlightenment.  MacIntyre presents this as hard evidence that the Enlightenment and its progeny simply cannot form the basis of any workable system of virtues as it betrays any effort to do so with its rejection of truth and objectivity.

Ultimately, MacIntyre incarnates the conflict between pre and post Enlightenment as a conflict between Aristotle and Neitzsche with Aristotle representing the traditional teleological approach to virtue and Neitzsche representing the logical conclusion of Enlightenment (and post-Enlightenment) philosophy as Neitzsche acknowledges and simply embraces the fact that developing a system of true and generally applicable virtues is impossible.

This book is an impressive indictment of our twenty-first century Western culture.  Despite all of the bloviation about morality and ethics one hears through the media and the community, MacIntyre demonstrates in stark relief that in doing so they reveal that the emperor truly has no clothes.  Instead, as our post-Enlightenment culture has no consistent philosophical or intellectual way of deriving and/or identifying virtue, it has survived using the borrowed capital of the prior Christian culture that preceded it by adopting its virtues for the present culture but attempting to find a post-Enlightenment rational for them.  The obvious intellectual problem is that post-Enlightenment thought simply cannot provide an intellectual basis for Christian virtue as the disconnect between the two is too great; they are too disparate.  Western culture was able to run on the fumes of Christian virtue within an Enlightenment or post-Enlightenment worldview while thinkers attempted to synthesize the two.  This attempt at synthesis has failed, which directly led to that failure coming to a head in the 1960s and, since then, Western culture has been in the process of deconstructing itself revealing the fundamental incompatibility of pre and post Enlightenment philosophy, and has laid the seeds for the constant cultural warfare being waged in Western civilization since then.  What concerns me, and MacIntyre too it seems, is that the cultural heritage we have received since the Enlightenment is inherently incapable of replacing what came before it in terms of developing a workable system of virtues, especially in the community and public life.  As a result, the foreseeable future will be marked by constant cultural conflict until the Neitzcheian Übermensch simply, by the force of his (or its) will and strength, exerts control over our society unless, of course, a more traditional view (e.g.: Christianity or at least Aristotelianism), can reassert itself in the culture.  May God have mercy on our culture!

If one has an interest in philosophy, ethics, or even mild cultural commentary, this is a phenomenal book, which is made all the better by the fact that it is highly respected and influential within and among intellectuals of all stripes and academia.

Book Review: The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, by Edward Feser

I have recently finished reading the book entitled The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, about which you can learn more here, by Edward S. Feser.  Feser is an associate professor of philosophy at Pasadena City College, visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, and a visiting scholar at the social philosophy and policy center at Bowling Green State University.

Professor Feser is unabashedly a Roman Catholic philosopher who wrote this book specifically in response to the writings of the New Atheists.  One cannot get more than a few pages into his writing without realizing that, in addition to being a Roman Catholic, Feser is a totally committed devotee of the philosophy/theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas.  What is also notable about Feser’s writing, unlike what one may expect from a philosopher, much less a Christian one, is that it drips with acerbic sarcasm, humor, and wit, which makes what could potentially be very dry material very entertaining (or very annoying and infuriating if one is on the other side of the positions he argues).  Indeed, Feser ensures this book is very readable to even those who are most unfamiliar with philosophy as he goes to great lengths to explain basic philosophy before embarking on the meat of arguments.

Feser’s main agenda in the book is to demonstrate why and how the primary arguments proffered by the New Atheists are without merit.  His arguments are far more pointed and directed than, say, David Bentley Hart‘s are in his book The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness and Bliss (see more on that book here), which deals with many of the issues raised by the New Atheists.  The distinction is that Hart’s thesis is to present a “definition” of the term “God,” which also just so happens to address and expose many of the errors of the arguments put forth by the New Atheists, as opposed to Feser’s approach which is to formulate specific arguments in opposition to the New Atheists.

Feser’s book is more than just “negative” however (by negative I mean demonstrating how the New Atheists are in error); his arguments against the New Atheists generally take the more positive form of demonstrating how Thomism, and by genetic connection, Aristotelianism, are far more cogent and coherent worldviews, especially as it relates to God.

Feser, like Hart, has an extremely low opinion of the arguments presented by the New Atheists, and it is also clear, like Hart, his opinion is not merely due to some sort of personal bias toward theism or Christianity; rather, both men note the intellectual bankruptcy in the arguments and positions of the New Atheists in the face of authentic scholarship, indeed even the scholarship of atheists of better reputation.  Of course, as implied above, Hart’s approach to the New Atheist arguments is as merely an ancillary to his greater point in developing a clearer picture of God, whereas Feser meets them directly.

Feser, like Hart, notes that the New Atheists’ rejection of, or disbelief in, “god” does not at all speak to the Christian’s God as the “god” the New Atheists disbelieve in bears little resemblance to what Christians mean by “God.”  Furthermore, Feser takes the time to provide the reader a brief overview of the history of (relevant) philosophy so one can see what came before in philosophical thought, what now exists in it, and how that transition was made.  Upon setting the philosophical stage, Feser picks off each of the New Atheists by demonstrating and exposing the fact that none have “done their homework” due to their rather obvious unfamiliarity (or lack of understanding of) basic philosophy.  Furthermore, he reveals that their lack of philosophical literacy has caused them to develop their own philosophies (intentionally or unintentionally) to provide the foundations for their views that are completely incoherent and unable to withstand the most elementary of arguments and analysis.

Through the use of the teachings of Plato, Aristotle, and ultimately St. Thomas Aquinas, Feser convincingly demonstrates that cogent, coherent, and rational cases can be made for the existence of God, the soul, the afterlife, non-physical reality, and teleology.  Indeed, perhaps most central to Feser’s thesis is his approach to teleology, which is to say the purpose or function something has.  For the atheist, by definition and also, indeed, through his own arguments, teleology simply cannot exist as teleology assumes, by its own terms, a purpose or function giver (e.g.: God) which the atheist fundamentally rejects.  As a result, the atheistic approach to life, philosophy, and science is ultimately one which flounders around trying to develop a sensical worldview but is unable to do so as it rejects the tools available to do it.  Instead, without an understanding of basic philosophy and with a rejection of teleology, New Atheist philosophy has been forced to embrace completely irrational, incoherent, absurdist, and, indeed, superstitious, philosophies like eliminativism, scientism, idealism, and/or anti-realism (among others I am sure).  By contrast, Feser asserts, unlike the irrational worldview of the New Atheists, he can present a worldview that makes sense, is consistent with what we intuitively know to be real life, and can provide context, answers, and explanation for what we experience as life and reality.

Finally, it is worth noting that, despite being a Christian philosopher, Feser makes his arguments in this book without resorting to the Bible, Church teaching, or other religious authority.  Instead, his arguments are exclusively philosophical and arrived at through the use of reason and rational thinking.  Perhaps this aspect of the book is what will make it most powerful with the non-believer as it requires no submission to, or acceptance of, any religious teaching or text.  In order for one to understand and arrive at Feser’s conclusions, all one has to do is think, but, unfortunately, all most atheists are interested in doing is disbelieving.

Post Navigation