My article “Aquinas on the Human Soul” appears in the anthology The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism, edited by Jonathan Loose. Aquinas is an in-depth but accessible introduction to the Feser shows that Aquinas’s philosophy is still a live option for thinkers today. In this multifaceted introduction to the renowned thinker, Edward Feser shows how Thomas Aquinas’s works are as relevant today as when they were written.
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He believes different, more complicated, and more subtly wrong things. This is, of course, salutary. There is a tendency to assume that people who believe things that seem wrong to us are stupid and have failed to notice the obvious flaws in their reasoning. Feser argues that final causes, or teleoi, obviously exist. He points out that it is quite impossible to talk about biology without talking about final causes: Human bodies are in fact designed by a tremendously powerful optimizer for a purpose.
That gets into the second problem of teleoi— why should I pay attention to the teleoi at all? Causal series ordered per accidens work the way that having children works: I exist because my mother gave birth to me, but if my mother died, I would continue to exist.
Causal series per se work the way that pushing a cart works. If I stopped pushing the cart, then it would stop moving. Per accidens causal series can continue aquinaz far back as you like: Per se causal series have to end: Aquinas believes, therefore, that there has to be an uncaused causer; this being is God. However, I asuinas this mistake is a simple failure of reductionism. In reality, every causal series is per accidens and none of them are per se and there is no need to ground anything in God.
The larger issue here is the fallibility of pure reason. Feser says that his philosophy is like math: The problem is that humans are regularly wrong about uncontroversial things that everyone agrees on.
Our intuitions evolved to deal with things sized somewhere between a tenth of an inch and a few dozen miles, but the universe stubbornly insists on consisting of things lightyears apart or yoctometers wide. Quantum mechanics makes no intuitive sense; astrophysics makes no intuitive sense. Math is simpler, because its premises have been carefully refined to involve as little extraneous detail as possible.
And, of course, you can come up with consistent non-Euclidean geometries, many of which are useful for describing the universe despite our strong intuitions about parallel lines and the crossing thereof. Feser does not seem to have considered developing non-Aquinasian ethical systems.
June 3, at 5: RNA world is the reigning Reasonable Hypothesis about abiogenesis the origin of life. It basically just points out fesr mRNA can have both a nucleotide sequence and a protein-like structure, and that the molecule folds in to different shapes depending on the nucleotide sequence.
Rooting phenotype in an arbitrary alphabet DNA, and RNA allows fezer to be reconfigured with much more flexibility and complexity than the next-most complicated things in the universe, minerals and whatnot. And rooting genetics in an embodied phenotype gives that alphabet external forcing and allows mutations to be directed rather than purely random.
So, a dead world became a living world at roughly the moment that it gave physical context to grammar. But I find it remarkable that syntax, of all things, ends up having such remarkable powers in our reality. Per Aquinas, it suggests that logos is fundamental aquijas some very profound ways. June 3, at 6: RNA is a word in the same way that a string of beads is a word — that is, maybe if you squint, but drawing conclusions about the nature of universe from this fact might be a little too much.
June 3, at 3: I have a similar intuition coming from a different aquias. I tend toward the reductionistic, but it seems to me that abstractions have some kind of reality of their own. June 4, at 1: I like to say that computational structures and the isomorphisms between them exist in a mind-independant way. Regarding infinite sets, I prefer to take non-terminating computable sequences as fundamental.
From those you can get much, but not all, of analysis. You can get Cauchy sequences and delta-epsilon and co-induction and so on. What you do not get is computable equality, so you need to posit equality as an additional concept, which I am willing to do. June 5, at 3: This gets exceptionally interesting when you talk about metalogic and the limits of computation Feaer, Lob, etc. I mean, what is it exactly that Godel was studying?
Surely the completeness theorem is more than a form of art criticism. You mention grammar and use language as a metaphor. Language is an almost completely self-organizing system, constantly changing without any fsser making the changes. No one invented English or Chinese. Like Liked by 1 person.
June 5, at 4: In some ways, yeah. I compared biology to mineralogy. Minerals have a tessellating structure, and this structure can be represented in a linguistic format if you have the inclination, but it would be a bit weird to say that quartz has a syntax. Nucleic acids, on the other hand, are arbitrarily extensible polymers with the specific role of encoding a structure using symbolic representation.
A word made flesh is a domain where form and meaning get all tangled up and interdependent. June 5, at 6: Traditionally there has been a supposedly unbreachable wall between syntax and the lexicon, the piece of a language that is semantically condition. Chomsky for instance has always insisted on this.
A Quite Long Review of Edward Feser’s Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide | Thing of Things
Edward Vajda pints out that in a lot of languages the distinction between a word and a clause is essentially non-existent. June 11, at 6: What does the fact that in some languages clauses can be single words have to do with anything? June 4, at 6: First, physicists thought that matter was the fundamental building block of the universe, then energy. Now it seems like information is. First, do you agree with Feser that everything, even non-biological processes have final causes? But then in what sense is survival and reproduction actually the goal of an organism that arose from evolution?
It seems to me that neither survival nor death would really be the goal: I mean, sure, the points you do make are good ones, but the title of this post is just false advertising.
Like Liked by 3 people. Tarn Somervell Fletcher said: June 3, aqujnas 8: June 3, at 1: Catholics believe sex has two purposes, actually. Making babies, and bonding married couples. If ceser Catholic is infertile, for example, they can still get married and have sex.
Like Liked by 2 people. They continue forever until acted upon by an outside force. It describes our relationship to it. June 3, at 4: Almost every time I have seen privilege ascribed to someone, it has been phrased as some kind of characteristic that inheres in the person as opposed to the conjunction of social norms that it obviously is, e.
June 4, at 9: If our taste buds changed, what was delicious would change. Without any change in the cake.
A Quite Long Review of Edward Feser’s Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide
Organisms respond to formal relations between stimuli, and humans respond to arbitrary relations between stimuli. For instance, the height of the risers on a flight of stairs relative to our stride length determines how aquians organism climbs those stairs non arbitrary, mathematically model-able.
Not just impacts, but defines the entire behavioural sequence of stair climbing. Humans can do arbitrary.
Edward Feser: Now available: AQUINAS
They can do language. But that description itself a verbal behaviour changes the execution of that behaviour, and changes the behaviour of those responding to it if we articulate it. If it moves the world, it must be a thing of some sort. June 4, at 2: June 4, at 3: June 5, at On good days, words and concepts are a representation of reality with predictive utility, and that fully applies to words that describe relationships. That is, can purpose be a relationship between a thing and itself?
June 5, at 9: Following that path leads to madness and Catholic theology.