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).