Saturday, June 3, 2017

The curious case of Pope Francis and the “new natural lawyers”


The “new natural law theory” (NNLT) was invented in the 1960s by theologian Germain Grisez and has found prominent advocates in law professors John Finnis and Robert P. George.  Other influential members of this school of thought include the philosophers Joseph Boyle and Christopher Tollefsen and the theologian E. Christian Brugger.  The “new natural lawyers” (as they are sometimes called) have gained a reputation for upholding Catholic orthodoxy, and not without reason.  They have been staunch critics of contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and “same-sex marriage.”  However, the NNLT also departs in several crucial ways not only from the traditional natural law theory associated with Thomas Aquinas and the Thomistic tradition (which is what makes the NNLT “new”), but also from traditional Catholic moral theology.
 
One notorious example concerns craniotomy and abortion.  Again, NNLT writers are opposed to intentionally killing an unborn child.  However, some of them have argued that crushing a fetus’s skull so as to remove it from the mother’s body and thereby end the pregnancy need not reflect an intention to kill the fetus even though this procedure will in fact kill it.  It could reflect instead merely an intention to alter the shape of the fetus’s skull so as more easily to remove it, and in some cases be in principle justifiable (by the principle of double effect) on that basis.  This reflects the NNLT’s distinctive analysis of intention, which is very different from the traditional Thomistic analysis, and (unsurprisingly) it has generated considerable controversy among Catholic moral theologians.

Another example is capital punishment.  Scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and a long line of popes have consistently affirmed that capital punishment can be legitimate in principle.  Indeed, some popes have taught that it is contrary to Catholic orthodoxy to deny that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate.  Even Pope John Paul II, who famously opposed capital punishment in practice, was careful explicitly to affirm that it can be legitimate at least in principle.  It has, however, become the standard view among the “new natural lawyers” that capital punishment is in fact always and intrinsically wrong, wrong even in principle and not merely in practice under modern circumstances.  Grisez started to promote this idea around 1970, and his followers have argued that the Catholic Church could reverse her consistent teaching on this subject and adopt Grisez’s novel doctrine instead. 

This is delusional and dangerous.  In our book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, Joseph Bessette and I show, we think conclusively, that the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment is in fact an irreformable teaching of the Church.  (Joe and I briefly summarized some key points in an article at Catholic World Report last year, but I urge the interested reader to consult chapter 2 of the book, which devotes well over 100 pages of documentation and analysis to the subject.)  Any pope who tried to reverse this teaching would by that very fact put himself in that small company of popes who have taught doctrinal error, which Catholic teaching allows is possible when a pope is not speaking ex cathedra.  He would also severely damage the credibility both of the Church and of himself.  If Scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and all previous popes could all be so wrong for so long about something that serious, why should anyone trust what the Church says about any other topic?  And why should anyone trust a pope who contradicted his predecessors in this way?  If they could all get things so badly wrong, why believe him?

Pope Francis and capital punishment

It might appear, however, that in Pope Francis, the “new natural lawyers” have found a pontiff who might be willing to move in their radically abolitionist direction.  For the pope has sometimes made remarks that seem, at least at first glance and when read in isolation, to condemn capital punishment as intrinsically unjust.

To be sure, as Joe and I argue in our book, when read carefully it is clear that Pope Francis has not in fact quite said this.  We devote a fair amount of space to analyzing the pope’s statements about capital punishment (see pp. 183-196), and we argue that when all his remarks are taken account of, it is evident that he does not in substance move beyond what Pope John Paul II taught.

However, rhetorically he has several times gone beyond John Paul II.  For example, in 2015 he stated that “justice is never reached by killing a human being” and in 2016 he said that “the commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’ has absolute value and pertains to the innocent as well as the guilty” and that “even a criminal has the inviolable right to life” (emphasis added).  Some of his remarks have been even more extreme.  For example, in the 2015 statement he went so far as approvingly to quote a remark he attributed to Dostoevsky to the effect that “to kill a murderer is a punishment incomparably worse than the crime itself”(!) 

Pope Francis has also not confined his negative remarks to capital punishment.  He has several times also indicated that he regards even life imprisonment as immoral.  For example, in 2014 he stated that “a life sentence is just a death penalty in disguise” and implied that opponents of the latter must therefore oppose the former as well.  He repeated this in his 2015 remarks, criticizing sentences to life imprisonment as “hidden death sentences.”  Not only does this go far beyond anything Pope John Paul II or any other previous pope said, it also conflicts with what other Catholic opponents of capital punishment say.  For example, in a 2005 document the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recommended “life without the possibility of parole” as an alternative to capital punishment.

Again, as Joe and I show in the book, Pope Francis has also said things that point away from a condemnation of capital punishment as intrinsically immoral.  For example, in the 2015 statement he also says that the “elimination” of an aggressor is sometimes “necessary,” and that “today capital punishment is unacceptable,” indicating that it was legitimate in the past and under different circumstances. 

Then there is the fact that some of his remarks are so extreme that a charitable reader would have to conclude that the pope is in general speaking with rhetorical flourish rather than intending to make careful doctrinal remarks.  Consider the statement that the death penalty is “incomparably worse than” the crimes for which an offender might be executed.  Taken at face value, this remark is preposterous, indeed obscene.  To take just one example, Ted Bundy murdered fourteen women, routinely raped and tortured his victims, and mutilated and even engaged in necrophilia with their bodies.  He was executed in the electric chair, a method of killing that takes only a few moments.  Does any sane person really believe that executing Bundy was “incomparably worse than” what Bundy himself did?

Or consider the claim that life imprisonment ought also to be abolished.  Is the pope telling us that serial killers and mass murderers like Charles Manson, Richard Allen Davis, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, et al. ought to be let out of prison?  Presumably not.  But then, what exactly does he mean?  Presumably he is merely expressing in a rhetorically extreme way the view that life imprisonment can be morally problematic, even if it is not always and in itself wrong.

If these remarks are to be read as mere rhetorical flourishes, though, then it is plausible that the pope’s other remarks about capital punishment are to be read as rhetorical, rather than as expressions of the view that capital punishment is always and in principle wrong.  Again, Joe Bessette and I defend this interpretation at length in our book.

All the same, it would by no means be surprising if “new natural lawyers” appealed to at least some of Pope Francis’s statements on capital punishment as evidence of papal support for their extreme abolitionist position.  Yet to my knowledge, they have not done this.  They have not said: “Pope Francis has now taught that even a criminal’s right to life is inviolable and that the fifth commandment applies to the guilty as well as to the innocent!  This is nothing less than a papal seal of approval on what we ‘new natural lawyers’ have been saying for decades!” 

This is very odd.  Critics have for years been accusing NNLT advocates of contradicting irreformable Catholic doctrine and of taking Pope John Paul II’s teaching on capital punishment in an extreme direction that he did not take it himself.  Now Pope Francis has, at least on a surface reading, given them ammunition.  Yet they have not used it.  Why not?

Pope Francis and the “new natural lawyers”

The answer, I conjecture, is that the “new natural lawyers” have found Pope Francis’s remarks on other doctrinal matters to be so distressing that they are reluctant to appeal to him on this one. 

Consider first Grisez’s response to the pope’s famous 2013 interview with Fr. Antonio Spadaro (the one in which the pope said, among other things, that the Church shouldn’t be “obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently“).  Commenting on one of the remarks the pope made in that interview, Grisez said:

[I]f it was suggested by a spirit, it was not the Holy Spirit, for it is bound to confuse and mislead.

I’m afraid that Pope Francis has failed to consider carefully enough the likely consequences of letting loose with his thoughts in a world that will applaud being provided with such help in subverting the truth it is his job to guard as inviolable and proclaim with fidelity.  For a long time he has been thinking these things.  Now he can say them to the whole world – and he is self-indulgent enough to take advantage of the opportunity with as little care as he might unburden himself with friends after a good dinner and plenty of wine.

End quote.  That’s pretty strong language – and note that Grisez made these remarks even before Pope Francis made his most controversial utterances.

Coming to those, consider next the pope’s remarks last year about the use of contraception as a way of dealing with the Zika virus.  Two NNLT advocates, Tollefsen and Brugger, have argued (plausibly in my view) that the pope’s statements are morally problematic and cannot be reconciled with Catholic teaching on contraception. 

Then there is the problematic nature of Pope Francis’s statements in Amoris Laetitia and elsewhere about divorce, remarriage, and Holy Communion (about which I have written not too long ago).  Brugger has raised worries about these statements in a series of articles (here, here, here, and here).  Grisez and Finnis have called on Pope Francis to condemn certain errors that are being propagated in the name of Amoris

It may be, then, that the “new natural lawyers” have come to regard Pope Francis’s Magisterium as too problematic in general to be useful to appeal to in defense of their position on capital punishment.  That is speculation on my part, but it would explain the otherwise puzzling failure of NNLT writers to trumpet the pope’s statements on that subject.  There is rich irony here.  For decades NNLT advocates have been waiting for a pope who would adopt their extreme never-even-in-principle position on the death penalty.   Yet when they finally get a pope who at least arguably comes close to this, he ends up saying things on other topics that they find highly alarming.  It must be very frustrating for them.

New unnatural loopholes

I can’t say I feel their pain, however.  For there is another rich irony here – namely that the “new natural lawyers’” position on capital punishment is, frankly, far more obviously in conflict with Catholic tradition than anything Pope Francis has said.  Not to put too fine a point on it, it takes real chutzpah for writers whose position implies that scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and 2000 years of papal teaching have all been gravely in error to complain that Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition!

The pope has, after all, claimed that his most controversial remarks are perfectly in harmony with tradition, and to some extent has even tried to justify this claim.  For example, he cited an alleged policy of Pope Paul VI when attempting to justify his remarks about Zika and contraception.  Amoris cites Gaudium et Spes in support when it appears to suggest that the good of the children produced by adulterous unions might be endangered if “certain expressions of intimacy are lacking.”  I do not say that these particular appeals to tradition are plausible – I think they are not plausible – but again, it is at least claimed that there is no rupture with tradition. 

Compare that with Brugger’s book Capital Punishment and Roman Catholic Moral Tradition, which is by far the most detailed treatment of the subject written from a NNLT point of view.  It is a very curious document.  In particular, it is striking how much Brugger concedes to those who claim that the NNLT position is a radical break with traditional Catholic teaching.

For example, Brugger admits that the attempts of theologians who oppose capital punishment to reinterpret passages like Genesis 9:6 (“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image”) are unconvincing.  He admits that the passage poses a “problem” for positions like his own, which is “left standing” even given the creative exegesis of modern biblical scholars.

While some have claimed that Church Fathers like Tertullian and Lactantius were opposed even in principle to capital punishment, Brugger also admits that this is not the case.  Indeed, he admits that there was a “Patristic consensus” on the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment (even if some Fathers opposed it in practice).

Brugger admits that when Pope Innocent III required the Waldensian heretics to affirm, as a matter of Catholic orthodoxy, that capital punishment can be inflicted without mortal sin, what the pope meant is that the punishment itself can be legitimate.  Brugger thereby disagrees with Grisez, who has tried to reinterpret Innocent III’s teaching as concerned only with subjective culpability for the act of execution rather than with the moral status of the act itself.

Brugger admits that modern abolitionism has its roots in philosophical ideas and social movements hostile to Catholicism, such as the thought of Voltaire, Hume, and Bentham, in social contract theory and utilitarianism, in the loss of belief in an afterlife and consequent emphasis on prolonging this life, and in Enlightenment and secularist thinking in general.  He admits that the experience of Catholic pastors shows that the prospect of execution often leads offenders to repentance and conversion.

Brugger admits that even Pope John Paul II, despite his opposition in practice to most executions, explicitly taught that capital punishment is legitimate in principle.  He admits that what he calls the “plain-face interpretation” of the 1997 update of the Catechism of Catholic Church does not support even the claim that a development of doctrine has taken place, much less a reversal of past teaching.  In the new edition of his book, Brugger also admits that Pope Benedict XVI would probably not agree with any attempt to construct from John Paul II’s teaching a more radically abolitionist position (as Brugger tries to do). 

In general, Brugger admits that scripture, tradition, and the history of papal teaching have consistently supported the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment, and compiles a mountain of evidence to that effect.  Rare is the author who so thoroughly if inadvertently undermines his own case.

And yet he does try to make that case.  That is to say, Brugger attempts, in the face of all this evidence to the contrary, to show that the NNLT thesis that capital punishment is always and intrinsically wrong, wrong even in principle and not merely in practice, is compatible with Catholicism.   The attempt involves two basic lines of argument.  First, Brugger claims that while the Church has always taught that capital punishment is legitimate in principle, she has not done so in a strictly irreformable way.  Second, he claims that even though Pope John Paul II did not explicitly teach that capital punishment is immoral in principle (and indeed explicitly taught the opposite), such a teaching is nevertheless implicit in some of the things he said. 

Now, in By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, Joe and I examine these lines of argument in detail, and we show that they are completely without merit.  Indeed, you will find in our book the most thorough response yet given to Brugger and other NNLT writers on capital punishment.

I direct readers interested in a critique of the NNLT position to our book, then.  The point I want to emphasize for present purposes is this: By Brugger’s own admission, the NNLT position on capital punishment is radically discontinuous with what the Church has traditionally taught, has not yet been shown to be reconcilable with scripture, and requires departing from the “plain-face interpretation” even of the magisterial texts most favorable to it.  How is that any better than what the “new natural lawyers” find troubling in some of Pope Francis’s statements (which at least claim to be in continuity with tradition)?  How can it be permissible for NNLT advocates to ignore the “plain-face interpretation” of John Paul II’s statements in Evangelium vitae in favor of some purportedly deeper new doctrine vis-à-vis capital punishment, if it is impermissible for even a pope to ignore the “plain-face interpretation” of John Paul II’s statements in Familaris consortio in favor of a purportedly deeper new understanding of Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried?  Why do the “new natural lawyers” get a pass if Pope Francis doesn’t? 

In fact what NNLT advocates worry that they see in Pope Francis and his defenders is something they have for decades been practicing themselves – “lawyering” in the sense of looking for loopholes in Catholic tradition by which some novel doctrine might be introduced into it, and by which the novelty might be acquitted of the charge of heterodoxy on a technicality.  On the back cover of the first edition of Brugger’s book, a blurb from Grisez tells us that Brugger “defends the proposition that the Catholic Church could teach that capital punishment is always morally wrong” (emphasis added).  But looking for ways by which the Church “could teach” such-and-such is a very odd way of doing Catholic theology.  One would have thought that the idea was rather to find out what the Church does in fact teach.  After all, as the First Vatican Council declared:

For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.

The theologian’s business, the “new natural lawyers” would rightly warn us, is not to remake Catholicism in the image of Walter Kasper’s personal theology.  But neither is it to remake Catholicism in the image of Germain Grisez’s personal theology.  The disease the NNLT writers diagnose is one they have played no small part in spreading themselves. 

210 comments:

  1. Why do you think they make the claims they do? It's not like men like Robert P. George are idiots and want to go against the Catholic Church.

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    1. On Christianity moral truth is grounded in the character of God, a character we can experience indirectly (for example when reading the gospels) or directly (for example when praying). So my guess is that they directly experience the truth in this matter and this experience moves them down the path they follow.

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    2. That sounds pretty mushy stuff. After all, I experience the justice or God when I think, 'That man who raped his infant daughter so that she died deserves to die.' In this, I should think, I'm within the bounds of Scripture, which is an expression of God's nature.

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  2. Hard to say for sure. But I would speculate that there are at least two factors in play:

    1. The extreme "wrong even in principle" position on CP does seem to follow from the general NNLT method. Hence if one is independently committed to the NNLT approach, there will be a strong inclination to swallow this particular implication of it. (To be sure -- and as we point out in the book -- it is not clear that that the extreme anti-CP position does in fact follow necessarily from NNLT. Finnis resisted it for a while, and there are moves one could make to try to block it. Still, it is not hard to see why Grisez and Co. ended up going in that direction.)

    2. The "new natural lawyers" have taken far less heat for this radically anti-traditional aspect of their position than one would have expected. I think this is in part because they have a strong reputation for orthodoxy in other areas, in part because JPII's hostility to CP made the NNLT view seem less extreme than it really is (even if it goes much farther than JPII did), and in part because many Catholics appear simply not to realize how extreme the NNLT view on this subject is. (E.g. Shea seems not to realize it.) Now, the fact that people have mostly given them a pass on this aspect of their view has probably made it easier for them to convince themselves that it is reconcilable with Catholicism. They can tell themselves: "Most people don't complain about it much, so it must be kosher."

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    1. Addendum: A NNLT-friendly friend of mine takes exception to that last sentence. So let me clarify. Naturally, I did not mean to accuse NNLT advocates of an appeal to majority fallacy. What I meant is that it is much easier to see that one's position is of dubious orthodoxy if most other Catholics are characterizing it that way than it is when most other Catholics are treating it as within acceptable bounds.

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    2. It might be worth looking into NNL views on Vatican II and religious liberty. I think they are also inclined to read recent teaching/practice on religious liberty as a more radical departure from the tradition than some other Catholics would. (The topic is especially discussed in George's non-academic work.)

      I have some recollection of an exchange like the following: Someone objects that a teaching with the status of that on capital punishment is not reversible. A NNLer replies that teachings with such a status are reversible, and the teaching on religious liberty is in fact an example.

      However, I don't know where or if this took place. It perhaps took place in personal correspondence.

      The issues are very similar. In the book, you suggest that churchmen are tempted to oppose capital punishment because they feel as though they are reactionaries on many other issues. Something similar seems to be true of religious liberty tending toward indifferentism.

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    3. @ Feser,

      If you get a chance ...

      Are you able to describe how the new natural lawyers differentiate, if the do, their first principle of practical reason, from the operation of simple instrumental reason directed toward the satisfaction of an impulse?

      I really do not see how the deliberately metaphysically divorced idea of a "good", can be sustained as an idea implying an objective moral imperative, merely based on some ostensible web of interconnections. That is, if I even get the working idea correctly.

      I know that E.A. Burtt tried something roughly along those lines after WWII (it occupies the latter chapters of my father's old 1950's college logic text), but I don't really see how it works any better than does Rawls' methodology, or the infamous "Sam Harris method" of proving the existence of objectively evil secular events, by just imagining ... they are evil. Or as the chapter might be called, "The lingering magic of stipulation in a disenchanted world"

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    4. @ DNW

      Are you able to describe how the new natural lawyers differentiate, if the do, their first principle of practical reason, from the operation of simple instrumental reason directed toward the satisfaction of an impulse?

      They think that the first principles of practical reason (of which the very first principle of practical reason provides the grammatical and logical form) state the particular intelligible goods are worth pursuing. The apprehension of those goods, they think, is an operation of the practical intellect, whereas an impulse is not.

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    5. " 'Are you able to describe how the new natural lawyers differentiate, if the[y] do, their first principle of practical reason, from the operation of simple instrumental reason directed toward the satisfaction of an impulse?'

      They think that the first principles of practical reason (of which the very first principle of practical reason provides the grammatical and logical form) state the particular intelligible goods are worth pursuing. The apprehension of those goods, they think, is an operation of the practical intellect, whereas an impulse is not."

      Obviously I am going to have to read more deeply on this theory than I have. The "goods" as I understand it are held to be incommensurable. Their value, so I read, is known through intuitive acts.

      Where exactly, practical reason differs from instrumental reason and what powers it possesses to order or establish objective value, much less moral obligation is unclear to me.

      Which is why in the past I have found the references to "human thriving" as if it established value rather than served as a mere description of some sort, such a laugh.

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    6. @ DNW

      The "goods" as I understand it are held to be incommensurable. Their value, so I read, is known through intuitive acts.

      Yes, they are taken to be incommensurable.

      The NNLers deny that the basic goods are known through intuition. Their reason for that denial is that they think that an intuition is a data-free insight, whereas they think that the grasping of the first principles of practical reason requires data from experience. It seems doubtful to me that the term "intuition" really has that connotation of being data-free, but that's how they want to talk anyway.

      I think the distinction between CNL and NNL is regularly obscured. Aquinas does say that the first principles are known immediately or self-evidently; they are grasped by synderesis, the practical version of nous (which is sometimes translated intuitive reason, other times understanding [of principles]). They are known through "intuitive acts" in whatever sense other first principles are known through "intuitive acts".

      The NNLers make a lot of hay of the fact that the first principles of practical reason are known immediately. They ascribe a peculiar phenomenology to the epistemology of first practical principles, taking one's experience of one's conscious inclinations to in some sense provide the inductive ground of the non-inferential grasping ('inductive' in the Aristotelian sense, in which first principles are known by 'induction', whatever that is). (See, for instance, pp. 2-4 of the Intro to John Finnis' collected essays; there are in fact several odd things about this presentation.)

      That is, I think, entirely gratuitous. Lots of propositions are known immediately; for instance, "man is a rational animal". That a proposition may be known immediately just doesn't tell you anything directly about whether it's a truth of speculative anthropology or not, whether grasping it requires some (however informal) third-personal observation of humans, or whether it can be supported if need be by reference to natural philosophy.

      (Two other points: First, it is also gratuitous to think that the inclinations in question need to be conscious. That isn't a plausible reading of ST I-II q. 94 a. 2; I can't see any reason to be tempted by it unless one is already committed to the NNL phenomenology. Self-evidence certainly doesn't require it. Second, the significance that NNL attributes to the "gerundive" form of the first practical principles is ridiculous and can't, I think, be squared with Thomas. See, for instance, p. 191 of Grisez's seminal paper.)

      Many Thomist critics go awry in thinking that it's self-evidence or immediacy that ought to be denied here. Aquinas does plainly say that the first principles are immediate or self-evident; one should simply not grant that has quite the implications the NNLers want it to have. (It's a fair point that "self-evident" is wanting as a translation of "per se nota," though that is a point the NNLers appreciate.)

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    7. @ DNW

      Where exactly, practical reason differs from instrumental reason and what powers it possesses to order or establish objective value, much less moral obligation is unclear to me.

      Well, I think on any Thomist account, instrumental reason will simply be a part of practical reason.

      The question is rather how practical and speculative reason differ. It is a common, and I think just, criticism of NNL that it divides the two in a way that Aquinas would not. Aquinas very explicitly denies that they are separate powers; the difference is that one is ordained to action, the other to contemplation (ST I q. 79 a. 11). He even says that they don't differ with respect to what they know; they just differ with respect to whether they direct the known truth to action.

      The short of it is that Aquinas is giving a reductive account of the distinction between speculative and practical reason. It seems, from the way we talk, that these are two distinct powers, but they're not, says Aquinas. They are one power (with the same formal object) acting with different further ends.

      The NNL view that practical truth is truth by analogy can't be squared with this, for then practical reason has a distinct formal object and must be a distinct power. Likewise, the first principles of practical reason don't have peculiarly practical objects or form, as NNL insists they do; Aquinas says in I-II q. 94 a. 2 that practical reason grasps them simply because they are being grasped for the sake of action. Elsewhere, he does not include "practical" when he is discussing practical matters, evidently because it is reason all the same.)

      Returning to your query, though, I think it was apt for you to mention stipulation earlier. Questions do quickly come to an end on NNL. There is no explanation of why the first principles of practical reason are "directive" or why, in light of the first principle of morality, the phenomenon of "moral obligation" finally occurs. They do not think such an explanation is possible.

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    8. "Second, the significance that NNL attributes to the "gerundive" form of the first practical principles is ridiculous ..."

      Heh and yikes both. "Gerund or gerundive?" ... well, goodbye, Mr. Chips!

      Ok now I am interested and I'll have to read up on how this bit of magic is supposed to operate.

      http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/latin/advanced/lesson11/part02.htm

      "It is important to note that the gerundive does not have an exact translation into English, and in order to convey the idea of obligation or suitability inherent in its meaning, translations can include such forms as 'fit to be', 'must be' and 'ought to be'. "

      Fitted to be but not in any teleological sense we are to understand.


      As in "fit to be tied" as they say when frustrated in Appalachia ... maybe.

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    9. "Returning to your query, though, I think it was apt for you to mention stipulation earlier. Questions do quickly come to an end on NNL. There is no explanation of why the first principles of practical reason are "directive" or why, in light of the first principle of morality, the phenomenon of "moral obligation" finally occurs. They do not think such an explanation is possible."


      As you note, I may be trying to calculate or figure something that is not in principle, or at least according to the working premises in play, logically calculable or figure-able.

      And, if this NNL business does in fact epistemologically launch from some school of phenomenology, then, yeah, I guess that description and "intuition", or some kind of unmediated apprehension will seemingly leave us in a place ... depending on how far it is taken, where anthropological deductions of the kind I am requesting will simply not be possible. And, rather than a more or less complete system of inferences what we wind up with is a system of descriptions and declarations. [This guy is ... of French origins, is he not? Joke]

      Ok. Rather than commenting further I am going to do some reading.

      Looks like I might even be getting out ye olde metaphysics class notes from ye even older Fr Norbert Heutter.

      Goodness.

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    10. DNW (and Greg), I followed up on the link to the Grisez article. I haven't finished it, but less than halfway through he seems to make what appears to me to be a clear and straightforward mistake. He is trying to parse out the practical reason's first act, and he lands on it being "tendency":

      The intelligibility of good is: what each thing tends toward. This formula is a classic expression of what the word "good" means.20 Of course, we often mean more than this by "good," but any other meaning at least includes this notion. ... Now since any object of practical reason first must be understood as an object of tendency,.. so the first principle of practical reason expresses the imposition of tendency, which is the first condition of reason's objectification of itself, and directedness or intentionality,

      I don't think he has this right. The first condition, before an ACTUAL occurrence of experienced tending (in the rational human) happens, is that the person must experience either pain or pleasure, or perhaps both pain and resolution of it (such as in pleasure or comfort). For example, if the baby (and we must go all the way back to newborn babies for this) is to experience desire for food as a good, he must first experience the pain of hunger, and have that pain satisfied by being fed. Before he experiences hunger, he does not actually tend toward food. In order to desire warmth as a good, he must first experience cold as discomfort and then warmth as satisfying, pleasing, eradicating the discomfort. The unborn baby DOES NOT have any operative action of tending toward warmth, because he has not experienced warmth as the fulfillment of something that COULD be lacking, nor has he experienced the umbilical nutrition as satisfying (resolving) some need, though it certainly served that purpose. It IS a good, but it is not experienced as a good, nor does the baby rationally tend toward it.

      Later, a person can learn abstractly so as to extrapolate on the many different processes of goods experienced as solving some distressing condition, and theorize or project as good some thing that he has never actually experienced a lack in, of course. A person who has always had their mother can conceive the pain of not having a mother. But a baby 4 days old cannot do so, not without experiencing it.

      Likewise, we could not extrapolate to, say, "hearing" as being a "good" to "tend towards" had every single person in the world been operated on before birth to destroy the auric nerves, for 10 generations, so that nobody could even say what it might feel like to hear. At most, we might be able to say "if humans were of such a nature as to hear, actually hearing would fulfill a tendency", but we can already say this in other terms: if humans were the sort of thing that (like geese) can experience the magnetic lines of the earth to orient themselves, then we would find the experience fulfilling and would then tend toward it. As a hypothetical, i.e. a speculative act, not a knowing ordered to action.

      The critical point here is that the what he identifies as first in the intelligibility of good, i.e. tending toward, is not first in time; pain and pleasure or resolution of pain comes first in experience. When the baby initially experiences pain and then surcease of that pain in a specific sensation, that experience provides the first ground for the intelligibility of "good", and that first particle of intelligibility is not "tending toward", it is "satisfaction" or "resolving" or something of that sort. He does not recognize the tending as SPECIFIC until he has some experience of an end that satisfies, so satisfaction is prior in intelligibility. I think.

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  3. If Scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and all previous popes could all be so wrong for so long about something that serious, why should anyone trust what the Church says about any other topic? And why should anyone trust a pope who contradicted his predecessors in this way? If they could all get things so badly wrong, why believe him?

    Because the authority of the Scripture, the Fathers, the Doctors and the popes is not founded on them never being “so wrong for so long” but on Christ who guides them to an ever better understanding of God, and thus of the truth.

    Moreover, as far I understand it, the Catholic church has never proclaimed that its teaching about capital punishment is infallible, correct? If so, it recognizes that it may be wrong.

    Some comments:

    1. What’s the problem with the following position: “Capital punishment can be legitimate in principle. War can also be legitimate in principle. But today war and capital punishment are in fact almost never legitimate and therefore it is the moral duty of every Christian to work for their abolition. And, after all, even when something is legitimate it does not follow that there are no morally better alternatives, and in our current state of civilization practically speaking there always are”.

    2. Most civilized countries, from Costa Rica to Estonia to Australia, have already formally abolished capital punishment, and many including Russia and Brazil have abolished it in practice. In the Western world the only advanced country which retains capital punishment is the US. In 2016 the US found itself among the 10 countries with most executions, sharing company with the likes of China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, Somalia, Banladesh, and Malaysia. I think there is little doubt that capital punishment will go the way of slavery; and that the Catholic church will find itself in the wrong side of humanity’s moral advancement if it is perceived as defending a remnant of a barbaric and disorderly past.

    3. I find especially repugnant when a Christian defends capital punishment, given that Christ Himself was executed after being tried and found guilty by the authorities and laws of His time. In this context I’ve heard the argument that Christ was unjustly condemned. But when the DNA testing was developed it was proven that a significant number of death row inmates in the US were innocent, so we know for a fact that some people today are unjustly executed too. Given this fact I cannot see any moral justification for upholding the practice of capital punishment.

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    1. This reply is solely in regard to your 3rd point, Dianelos. When you say "the argument that Christ was unjustly condemned," it sounds like that you don't agree with this statement, or that innocence or guilt is irrelevant to the justice of capital punishment. Ed is not defending capital punishment for those who are innocent, but for people like Ted Bundy who are clearly guilty. The thief on the cross likely committed far fewer murders than Ted Bundy but acknowledged that even he deserved capital punishment. How much more so Ted Bundy. If I defend the capital punishment of Ted Bundy, do you really find that repugnant or do you simply understand why I think that way but respectfully disagree?

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    2. @ Tim Finlay,

      Ed is not defending capital punishment for those who are innocent, but for people like Ted Bundy who are clearly guilty.

      Actually it is not clear to me that Feser defends capital punishment even for those who are clearly guilty of the evilest of crimes. Rather my understanding is that Feser defends the traditional Catholic view that capital punishment can be legitimate in such cases, and opposes the (as he sees it) modern view that capital punishment is never legitimate.

      My #3 is practical, as all morality is practical. Given the fact that in the US – despite all the safeguards – innocent people do land in death row, I think it follows that even one who agrees with the traditional view should be against the practice of the death penalty in the US. That is precisely the point made by Archbishop Tomasi at the UN when he explained why the Holy See fully supports the efforts to abolish the use of the death penalty.

      If I defend the capital punishment of Ted Bundy, do you really find that repugnant or do you simply understand why I think that way but respectfully disagree?

      No, in this particular case I don’t. I still believe it’s wrong though. My belief is not grounded in natural ethics but in what I consider to be the core ethical message of Christ as recorded in the gospels – I am referring to the “return no evil” and “do not judge”. Having said that, I understand the need and morality of protecting society against criminals by taking away their freedom to commit more crimes, and of not letting them out until one is reasonable confident they are not a danger for society anymore. But I don’t see any moral justification for punishment. You don’t punish somebody because she is sick, and evil is a sickness of the soul. To punish our neighbor is I think plainly contrary to Christ’s ethics and contrary to theistic metaphysics.

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    3. My belief is not grounded in natural ethics but in what I consider to be the core ethical message of Christ as recorded in the gospels – I am referring to the “return no evil” and “do not judge”.

      Perhaps someday, Dianelos, you will at least be consistent in this position when it comes to other matters. Here you are, righteously condemning capital punishment, while elsewhere you will twist yourself into knots to defend abortion. For you, it would have been permissible to kill Ted Bundy in utero, when he was completely innocent and before he had committed any crimes. But it is not permissible to kill him after he committed his crimes.

      This is why I have more respect for people like Mark Shea, who argue against capital punishment by saying things like "Be more pro-life, not less." While Shea may not realize how extreme the NNLT position is on capital punishment (as Feser says above), at least he understands that his opposition to the death penalty must he grounded in a consistent pro-life view of the dignity of the human being.

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    4. Danielos is simply trying to wrap Christianity around core progressive ideas which he exhibits here such as the existence of a moral progression.

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    5. "But I don’t see any moral justification for punishment. You don’t punish somebody because she is sick, and evil is a sickness of the soul. To punish our neighbor is I think plainly contrary to Christ’s ethics and contrary to theistic metaphysics."

      The evildoer is not my neighbor. The one who has mercy is my neighbor. We must be neighbors to evildoers by prayer - we must protect the commonwealth by removing its defects, such as the heinous and dangerous evildoers. No, we do not punish people for being sick, but sometimes we quarantine them, and even sometimes we condemn them to such a state for the rest of their life, and if there are no resources to help them continue living then we let them die. Your analogy does not work.

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    6. And of course, there is some evil and mercy in all of us. Add the qualifier "inasmuch" and we are good to go.

      Also see St. Paul's treatment of this theme - shunning, turning people over to Satan, letting lazy people starve, etc... Or any place Christ talks about Hell or the trials before the Parousia.

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    7. @ jmhenry,

      For you, it would have been permissible to kill Ted Bundy in utero, when he was completely innocent and before he had committed any crimes.

      I don’t believe that a fertilized human egg is a person, and therefore I think there isn’t an inconsistency in my position. But even if I am wrong in my views about abortion, I don’t see how this pertains to what I claim is a clear ethical commandment given to us by Christ that we should return no evil, and thus certainly to not kill evildoers.

      Now I can imagine counterarguments. Two have already been mentioned in this thread, namely that evildoers are not our neighbors, or that executing evildoers does not harm them. In the end of the day what matters is the charity in one’s soul, and what one believes about morals certainly has an effect in that. In the particular case we are discussing I find Christ’s moral teaching in the gospels to be quite plain – not only in what He said but also in how He lived. (The Word of God is not about speech but about a way of being.) And I notice that recent Catholic popes from John Paul II to Francis have spoken against the death penalty.

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    8. Ivan,

      There is truth in that, but above all Dianelos is a sentimentalist. He thinks what matters is sympathy for any and all suffering, and thus eclipses all concern for rigour, justice, or truth. The problem is he imagines, rather absurdly, that Christ was sentimentalist (and therefore quasi-materialist) as well.

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    9. Right, Jeremy, all his theories spring from sentimental nonsense that he tries to make out are Christian. They aren't even really arguments, because they just boil down to "because I feel it so", imagining his feelings are the workings of the Spirit.

      Please, people: Do not feed the troll's ego. Just let it slide on by, and ignore it.

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    10. Oddly enough, it is the dangerous criminal who is less human, insofar as that is possible... He has turned himself almost into an animal by his actions, so he can be treated as such insofar as it is necessary to protect the commonwealth (and reform him).

      We do an evil by failing to stop another. Allowing some people to continue to live is one such failure. Remove the sick part of the society which can't be healed - just like a gangrenous limb. Some criminals remain dangerous even in prison - and unless you completely isolate them or completely maim them (which seem to be worse), they will kill again. The objective and principled treatment is death for such people. It might help them, it helps everyone else in multiple ways.

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    11. Dianelos GeorgoudisJune 4, 2017 at 10:53 AM

      "My #3 is practical, as all morality is practical. "
      --So I take it then you are not a Christian?

      On Christianity god is the absolute authority for morality. Practicality is irrelevant.

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  4. Doesn't Grisez somewhere argue that capital punishment could be justified only if the executioner is not actually intending the death of the person, as an extension of waging war? It would seem the same principles would apply there as in his defense of the craniotomy.

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    1. I am not sure if this applies across the board with NNLT advocates, but your point here is very telling, and it shines a spotlight on what Ed Feser said above: that their notion of "intentional" is rather odd.

      I believe that the most recent version of the NNLT argument is that the causing of death can be moral if the "intention" behind the act is not "to kill" formally speaking, but rather "to deprive" the criminal of such niceties as breathing, seeing, hearing, talking, blood flow, etc. By his crime he has lost his claim to THOSE goods, so he may be deprived of them. It just happens that in depriving him of those, you seem to have caused him to lose his life as well.

      Oh, well, accidents do happen, I suppose.

      It is, of course, an incoherent theory at that level. It makes hash of everything JPII said in Veritatis Splendor about intrinsically disordered acts, because it makes hash of the notion "object of the act". Well, no, officer, I DIDN'T kill that guy in front of my gun, all I intended was to pull my index finger in towards the palm, really. The gun going off and the death of that obnoxious jerk were not formally in my intention."

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    2. Yes. That.

      It's a great interest of mine at present. I'm preparing an article on two types of "direct killing" and their rightful and wrongful use. Suffice to say that there is more than the "formal" kind, but there is also a "material" kind where the actual treatment of the body itself (which is the target) is of such a nature that it is sufficient for destroying that body... The trick is showing how a prohibition on such killing doesn't apply to defending yourself against a thug in a back alley while it does apply to the craniotomy - and I think I've found the way to explain it, building off of Long's treatment in "Teleological Grammar".

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    3. I suspect that the NNL views on intention and punishment would warrant administering actions that inevitably cause death (lethal injections, beheadings) to murderers, as long as death is not intended.

      The idea would be: proportionate punishment requires depriving the liberty of the offender to the extent that he asserted his will against the political community. But he ended someone's life, totally depriving that person of liberty. Merely imprisoning him does not proportionately deprive him of liberty, for he can still walk around, think, etc. Separating his head from his body or pausing the flow of his blood indefinitely, though, would deprive him of just that much liberty. Both actions also cause his death, but death is conceptually distinct from the cessation of blood flow and the separation of head from the body.

      However, this wouldn't square the theory with Catholic orthodoxy, since what the Scripture and the universal opinion of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes, etc. seems to require is that death may be administered in principle, not merely that liberty may be maximally deprived.

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  5. The late Justice Scalia wrote an article discussing the morality of capital punishment for First Things in 2002 called, God's Justice and Ours.

    He makes this interesting observation:

    "Indeed, it seems to me that the more Christian a country is the less likely it is to regard the death penalty as immoral. Abolition has taken its firmest hold in post-Christian Europe, and has least support in the church-going United States. I attribute that to the fact that, for the believing Christian, death is no big deal. Intentionally killing an innocent person is a big deal: it is a grave sin, which causes one to lose his soul. But losing this life, in exchange for the next? The Christian attitude is reflected in the words Robert Bolt’s play has Thomas More saying to the headsman: “Friend, be not afraid of your office. You send me to God.” And when Cranmer asks whether he is sure of that, More replies, “He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to Him.” For the nonbeliever, on the other hand, to deprive a man of his life is to end his existence. What a horrible act!"

    It seems to me that in today's discussions of capital punishment the immaterial soul is treated as non-existent.

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    1. Mary Ann, one of the things that has made me most outraged about the bishops (and even the Pope) arguing against the death penalty in recent decades is their pointing to so-called "civilized countries are giving up the use of capital punishment". Because these so called civilized societies are so warped and deluded that they cannot figure out that the unborn have an even stronger claim to protection than murderers do. And because the arguments used in these modern countries to reject the death penalty are those of secular humanism, not those of the Church. It would be like using Hannibal Lector as a character witness against killing, when HIS point is against killing more people than you have refrigerator space for. Looked at properly, the argument is itself an outrage against good morals.

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  6. Forgive me Dr. Feser, this is entirely off topic but when is your Five Arguments book coming out?

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    1. it will be released later this year, i think.

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  7. For example, in 2014 he stated that “a life sentence is just a death penalty in disguise” and implied that opponents of the latter must therefore oppose the former as well.

    Well, I dare say he's not wrong. The end result is the same: a person dies within prison walls, the only difference is the method of execution - one uses man-made methods, the other uses time. As a casual observer it strikes me that the debate hinges on two questions: 1) What is just punishment? 2) Is there any fates worse than death?

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    1. Perhaps it is not quite apropos, but Gen. John Stark, the Hero of Bennington, would answer your final question this way: "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils."

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    2. ELC, not saying I disagree with you... ;)

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    3. This seems badly mistaken. As it strikes me, your idea of execution entails that if I completely forget to give water to someone in a persistent vegetative state, then I have executed him. I would be responsible for his death (and culpably so here!), but I obviously did not execute him. As such, I expect that we have even more reason to disagree with you about life imprisonment, for here nobody is responsible for the prisoner's death.

      Of course, I'm sure you have something to say about all this, but I really don't know what it is...

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  8. Well, I dare say he's not wrong. The end result is the same: a person dies within prison walls,

    In the same sense, then, we are ALL sentenced to death, the moment we are conceived. We all die within the prison of this world. We cannot get out with our lives. The only difference is the "method of execution": God sentences us to "one lifetime", (with time off for good behavior, if you believe that "only the good die young").

    In other words: bunk. It's just playing with words, and anyone can play that game. A life sentence and a death sentence are not the same thing, unless life and death are the same thing.

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    1. unless life and death are the same thing

      This is a common mistake. A life sentence is not a sentence to life (in the sense of living)m which would make no sense; thus, contrary to the misleading labels, a life sentence is not to a death sentence as life is to death. A life sentence, particularly a life sentence without parole, is a sentence to imprisonment until one dies naturally. A death sentence is likewise a sentence of imprisonment until death (it is, indeed, often legally phrased in ways that make this clear), with the only difference being that the state takes responsibility for actual killing. What makes the greater gravity of the death penalty is that the crime is considered so serious that it is deemed better to hurry the process and kill you than wait until you die on your own, nothing else.

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    2. In other words: bunk.

      Yes, Tony, it is bunk because you made one very stupid mistake:

      We all die within the prison of this world.

      If there's no difference in prison, then by all means sell your house and go live within its walls. Anybody in the world can see there is a very distinct difference between dying on a beach, surrounded by your loved ones than dying in a room you don't want to be in, surrounded by strangers. Cut it out with that metaphor-semantic bull hockey.

      It's just playing with words, and anyone can play that game.

      As you just demonstrated quite dishonestly and stupidly.

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    3. Nate, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that you just didn't quite catch the tenor of my point.

      Yes, my thesis that we are all prisoners in this world was stupid. It was meant to be stupid. I was actually paraphrasing an equally stupid saying in a movie from 40+ years ago (one of the Herbie movies): "we're all prisoners..."

      The form of this argument is to raise awareness of the foolishness of an original claim by saying something even MORE foolish - ridiculously so - and that either logically flows alongside the first foolish claim or at least is plausibly similar. It is sufficient if you can extrapolate from the first claim to my more ridiculous comment. And that's what we have here.

      The claim that "a life sentence is just a death penalty in disguise" has numerous failings, some so obvious as to be not worth bothering to state, some less so. But we can extrapolate thus: The person in prison who has been sentenced to life in prison will die there, it amounts to a death sentence. This is because of the mere fact that death will occur in the place in which the state placed him without his consent - regardless of the cause of death. (We are disregarding all the possible intervening causes that might void the life sentence, for this.) But God has placed us in the world without our consent, and because of that mere fact we will die in the world - the place where he put us without our consent. Therefore our deaths will be no different than a death penalty.

      Yes, of course it is ridiculous. Ergo...the first claim is tinged with the same foolishness.

      As arguments go, this form of argument is not all that solid; it is not a strict demonstration, for example. It isn't meant to be. It is more rhetorical than logically definitive.

      But that's all the merit the point deserves. The original claim is wrong, as ELC, Grace, and Brandon show.

      To be charitable, almost certainly the Pope never meant for the comment to be taken literally and strictly as true. He almost certainly meant it rhetorically. As rhetoric, it has a certain cache to it. As strict logic, it fails, and nobody should give it much seriousness: he probably didn't.

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  9. "You don’t punish somebody because she is sick, and evil is a sickness of the soul. To punish our neighbor is I think plainly contrary to Christ’s ethics and contrary to theistic metaphysics."

    This is an argument, not just against capital punishment, but against all criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Is that really what you mean?

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    1. @ Anonymous 8:00 AM

      ”This is an argument, not just against capital punishment, but against all criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Is that really what you mean?”

      I was thinking that in the context of discussion about ethics you should not care one bit about what I mean but about what Christ meant by the way he spoke and lived. Hasn’t Christ stopped the lawful punishment of the adulterous woman? Hasn’t He told us not to return evil – without ifs and buts? Hasn’t He told us to love the way He loved, and didn’t He love everybody including the Romans, and the Samaritans, and the tax-collectors and the prostitutes and the sick and the humble? Hasn’t He told us not to judge lest we be judged by God, and to forgive so that we may be forgiven by God?

      Ethics is not grounded on some system that is prior to God, for if it were so then God would not be the metaphysical ultimate - but beholden to that system. Ethics is grounded in the character of God, and the character of God can only be known by experiencing Christ.

      Now “the experience of Christ” sounds like a grand and special thing, but in fact it is something natural and multifaceted. So when experiencing the beauty of creation one is experiencing Christ. When reading the gospels with an open heart one experiences Christ. In the least act of charity or even merely in a charitable thought one experiences Christ, indeed one partakes in Christ. By taking part in the life of the church one experiences Christ (in the Eucharist even physically). By considering the image in which one is built one experiences Christ. In prayer of course, and in self-transcendence and self-sacrifice one experiences Christ.

      Having said that, I will presently try to give you also a direct and practical answer to your question.

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    2. @ Anonymous 8:00 AM

      ”This is an argument, not just against capital punishment, but against all criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Is that really what you mean?”

      So here's my direct answer: It seems to me blindly obvious that we are not to punish others, in the sense of hurting others as a “just deserts” for the evil they did. The very thought strikes me as comical. Who are we to punish our siblings? Our duty is to love, and love moves one only to desire and to work for the beloved person’s benefit.

      Now of course we are to protect society from evil-doers and in some cases this requires to physically inhibit them from hurting society – such as by putting them in prison. But this should be done not as a retribution or punishment, but should be realized in a context of rehabilitation and education. We should care for our imprisoned neighbors and move the state to do its best for them. Which includes providing them with education, work, and even social life within the prison confines.

      And what about the cost of maintaining such a nice prison system? Well, as always, prevention is the most cost-effective policy. The prison population in other advanced countries is a fraction of what it is in the US (700 per 100.000 in the US, 150 in England, 100 or less in almost all European countries). So there is much to be learned about what these countries do right, and thus lower costs in the US. Moreover I think prison inmates should at least to a significant degree earn their living – the fact that they are in prison does not give them the right to a free meal. To give them the opportunity to work productively would be a blessing both to the inmates themselves and to the taxpayer. Actually I don’t see why free enterprise in a huge range of activities cannot function and prosper within the physical confines of a prison. Only whose inmates who are pathologically violent because some biological reason or deep psychological trauma would be unable to perform well in such an environment, but these are a small fraction and in any case require specialized treatment.

      A final general observation: I have the sense that people tend to consider Christ’s ethics as some kind of theoretical curiosity pertaining to some ideal world but not practicable in the real one. But if Jesus is God incarnate then this position is grossly incoherent. It is our duty as Christians to apply Christian ethics not only in our personal life, but also to think and try to convince others about how they can profitably be applied in our society too.

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    3. It seems to me quite clear you have not spent much time in prison, Danielos. Usually, that's a good thing. Here, it renders your advice totally unhelpful.

      You are arguing against "vengeance." That is not the same thing as reparation, which could be materially identical with prevention, rehabilitation, and deterrence.

      I strongly recommend Dr. Feser's book. And St. Thomas.

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    4. It seems to me blindly obvious that we are not to punish others,

      Then why do you punish us with your comments? As other have repeatedly suggested: just go away.

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    5. @Dianelos Georgoudis:
      I think VRS hit the nail when he pointed out that you’re confusing punishment and vengeance. Still, I think part of your problem is that you don’t have a very good idea of what love actually is. Yes, Jesus did love those people, He even loved the Pharisees, although He called them snakes! That kind of attack, in Near Eastern society, is very damaging when done properly, so by your criteria (punishment is bad because it involves doing harm) we should frown on what Jesus did. Clearly, loving someone can require administering certain kinds of harm in order to foster (or in some cases simply preserve) greater goods. This suffices to explain why punishment is not contrary to the command against returning evil for evil--punishment is not for its own sake (the way vengeance is), but for the sake of a higher good.
      As for your idealized prison system, which seems obviously infeasible, why not advocate some kind of alternative to incarceration? You apparently want education and social media access for the imprisoned, suggesting you understand that incarceration cuts people out of their social network (which people have told me countless times increases probability of repeated arrests). How about advocating restorative justice (coupled with vocational training or something), so that people can keep in touch with their social network, and get out of the precipitating circumstances that motivated their crimes? That seems like a better starting point than what you’ve given.

      I have something else to add. Others have complained about your bad understanding of the Bible (e.g. here). I have to say you proved it to me right here, because the Lord did not stop a lawful stoning, but an unlawful one! As you ought to know, the rule for stoning adulterers was that all members of the guilty party be present (cf. Leviticus 20.10). As the story goes, only the guilty woman was brought to Jesus; if the stoning were lawful, the guilty man would have been there, too. But Jesus turned their trap on them; they wanted to prove He was a fallible, and perhaps even a sinful man--they only succeeded in proving that they were.

      You also err when you claim He told us not to return evil for evil, “without ifs and buts.” Nowhere in any of the Scriptural texts you might cite do we find any reason to think the statement is absolute. This is a good thing, because that would mean that Paul contradicted other passages in the New Testament when he said that the state has God’s authority to administer punishment (Romans 13.1-5), and he knew full well that Rome executed people! If statements against returning evil for evil are absolute by default, then by parity so is this one, with all the unacceptable consequences that follow. Something's plainly wrong with your interpretation.

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    6. Social networks have a different name in prisons. The word starts with a "g."

      There's plenty of education, recreation, and work going on in prisons. But some guys can't handle that, or they just don't want it.

      As for the woman caught in adultery, perhaps we could say that it was her clients who brought her there. They set her up in order to get at Jesus. Then, he asks them if they want to stick around - and get stoned too!

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    7. @ Grace and Rust,

      you’re confusing punishment and vengeance.

      @ Grace and Rust,

      you’re confusing punishment and vengeance.

      I have explained what I mean by punishment, namely “hurting others as a “just deserts” for the evil they did”. I completely reject the idea that we have the right (never mind the obligation) to hurt others because “they deserve it”.

      Clearly, loving someone can require administering certain kinds of harm in order to foster (or in some cases simply preserve) greater goods.

      I agree. For example a parent sometimes hurts her child in order to discipline her or in order to keep her from a greater harm. But she does not punish her child “because it deserves it”. “Retribution” or “doing justice” not only contradicts Christ’s plain message, but also contradicts our natural way of loving.

      As for your idealized prison system, which seems obviously infeasible

      It would help if you explained why you think it is infeasible. The main idea is to physically separate evil-doers from free society, a goal that with today’s technology can be realized without high walls and locked cells (I am not discussing the minority who suffers from some pathological problem). While protecting society, these inmates can be given the opportunity to have an otherwise normal and productive life. Indeed should be asked to earn their living.

      You apparently want education and social media access for the imprisoned

      Education, yes of course. Social media, not necessarily - I consider them antisocial – but I have no strong opinion on the matter. I spoke of social life, things like companionship, friendship, even marriage. The goal of a Christian prison system is 1) to protect society, and 2) to reform inmates by giving them all opportunity and help to do so. I don’t see why inmates – those who have lost their freedom - can’t have an otherwise normal life living in an otherwise normal community. You want to help those who have hurt society repent and become better people.

      [continues below]

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    8. [continues from above]

      Others have complained about your bad understanding of the Bible

      Right, and I happen to think others don’t even understand what the Bible is: A compendium of the best theological thought available at the time it was written, produced by many, some less inspired than others. And in particular the Old Testament is not just a theological work, but also an instrument of nation-building, and in parts just poetry and story-telling. The idea that theology – the slow advancement of the understanding of Christ – stopped with the NT or stopped with Thomism strikes me as obviously wrong. We may be quite certain that Christ’s special providence in he world is continuous and as powerful as it is gentle. We are to build on ancient wisdom, not to idolize it.

      As the story goes, only the guilty woman was brought to Jesus; if the stoning were lawful, the guilty man would have been there, too.

      Aha. And how do you know the guilty man was not present? Or the better question: Do you really believe that if the guilty man was in fact present and that all was being done exactly and to the last detail as the law commands – Christ would have behaved differently? Would have raised a stone to throw at the woman? I don’t believe you believe that.

      said that the state has God’s authority to administer punishment (Romans 13.1-5)

      Actually, that’s good example. To understand a text we must first understand the reason why it was written. A major reason of Paul’s epistles was church-building. If one understands Romans 13.1-5 literally as an ethical precept then one ends up justifying the Nazi criminals who obeyed the “governing authorities”. “Why did you not refuse to follow these orders?” asks the Nuremberg trials judge. “Because to do so would amount to rebelling against the governing authorities, which St. Paul prohibits in Romans 13.1-5” answers the Nazi.

      If statements against returning evil for evil are absolute by default, then by parity so is this one, with all the unacceptable consequences that follow.

      It certainly seems to be the case that not returning evil for evil would have unacceptable consequences, but when one thinks about it, it turns to be a false assumption. It is an assumption based less on reason and more on our instincts or perhaps on the action of deceiving spirits.

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    9. Can you please explain why sending a soul to Hell FOREVER is not unjust?

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    10. Also - I have floated the theory that the guilty men WERE present.

      You are not the first person commenting here to think of mercy, or of the Bible. I suggest spending more time considering the difference between justice and vengeance. I have noticed there is some equivocation going on. Ite Ad Thomam:

      "Vengeance consists in the infliction of a penal evil on one who has sinned. Accordingly, in the matter of vengeance, we must consider the mind of the avenger. For if his intention is directed chiefly to the evil of the person on whom he takes vengeance and rests there, then his vengeance is altogether unlawful: because to take pleasure in another's evil belongs to hatred, which is contrary to the charity whereby we are bound to love all men. Nor is it an excuse that he intends the evil of one who has unjustly inflicted evil on him, as neither is a man excused for hating one that hates him: for a man may not sin against another just because the latter has already sinned against him, since this is to be overcome by evil, which was forbidden by the Apostle, who says (Romans 12:21): "Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good."

      If, however, the avenger's intention be directed chiefly to some good, to be obtained by means of the punishment of the person who has sinned (for instance that the sinner may amend, or at least that he may be restrained and others be not disturbed, that justice may be upheld, and God honored), then vengeance may be lawful, provided other due circumstances be observed."

      So you are fighting a bit of a straw man.

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    11. @Dianelos Georgoudis
      I believe I already answered your definition of punishment, and the argument against administering that, in my first response. Let’s jump over to Romans 13.1-5 again.
      First thing, you obviously didn’t understand my argument. Let me spell it out: if we treat Scripture passages that have no extended-context qualifications as absolute passages, then we run into a contradiction between Romans 13.1-5, 1 Peter 3.9, and Romans 12.17 (and probably other passages), as well as ridiculous consequences. Hence, there’s something wrong with that kind of exegesis. Trying to interpret those other passages in some absolute sense must be mistaken for the same reason it’s a mistake to read Romans 13.1-5 like that.
      Second, this suffices to refute your preposterous and even dishonest Nazi-regime rejoinder. If you understood my argument, you would know that I reject giving such an absolute reading as yours, for we also read that we must “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5.29). If we consistently followed what seemed to be your exegetical approach, the Nazis would be vindicated, but mine doesn’t have those consequences. Everyone knows the Nazi-regime misused its power--it wasn't acting as a minister of justice. Thus, people would have to act against it, just as the early Christians chose to die rather than offer incense to pagan gods.
      Third, now that we see all of this, it ought to be plain that this means you have to do more than appeal to certain Bible passages as though that proved your case. You have to show that your interpretation is either the only plausible one, or else the most probable one.
      With all that verbiage in place, we can look at the idea of “just deserts” punishment. Consider: we can reward a person “because he deserves it,” and his good actions are why he deserves a reward. It only makes sense that bad actions merit punishments of certain kinds; the person can “deserve it.” You want to undercut this parity by denying our obligation to issue punishments out of merit. This is plainly wrong, for a just person gives others their due, and as disciples of Christ, we are obliged to be just. We are also to be merciful, and the two fit like a hand in a glove, for they exist to reintegrate the offender and his victim as much as possible. Worse, your two grounds for rejecting this parity are empty. You beg the question in claiming that I contradict Christ’s plain message, and so far, it is nothing more than you distorting Christianity as others have accused you of before. Second, it is precisely because I love my charge that I punish her “because she deserves it.” Neither mercy nor justice makes sense apart from such love. I don’t see how this conflicts with our “natural way of loving,” and I think I’m entitled to an explanation. I doubt I’ll get one, considering your approach to abortion last time we locked horns.

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    12. @Dianelos Georgoudis
      You wanted to know why I think your idealized system is infeasible. Here goes nothing: you seem to want to incarcerate normal criminals, and at the same time have the government provide them the means of living as if they were free men. Physically separating them without walls and cells seems to require putting them far away from society, and keeping them there. Furthermore, VRS has already pointed out that prisons already provide work and education, so I figure you think we need even more. If you were advocating some alternative to imprisonment, they could have those things while being reformed, without needing the government to provide more. But since you want them physically separated, you need to provide infrastructure to make jobs of some sort. To my mind, all of that means creating “prison cities,” which, being run by the government, would prove to be money-holes. This is obviously guess-work, I don't how far off I am from what you think your new system would look like, and what would follow.

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    13. @Dianelos Georgoudis
      Let’s say more about the Bible.
      I happen to think others don’t even understand what the Bible is: A compendium of the best theological thought available at the time it was written, . . . some less inspired than others. . . . The idea that theology – the slow advancement of the understanding of Christ – stopped with the NT or stopped with Thomism strikes me as obviously wrong. We may be quite certain that Christ’s special providence in he world is continuous and as powerful as it is gentle. We are to build on ancient wisdom, not to idolize it.
      First, I doubt anyone would tell you the Bible is a purely theological work to begin with; indeed, any Christian here should tell you It's full of history and worship, apocalypse and prophecy. Your mistake is calling It a “compendium of the best theological thought available at the time it was written;” this implies that the materials are not connected very well, if at all, and in fact are subject to correction. Of course, that, and your comment that some of the authors were “less inspired than others” seem to explain why Doubting elsewhere said you’re willing to disregard passages that contradict your understanding.
      Second, if you really think anyone here really believes that theology stopped “with the NT” or “with Thomism,” you should just give up arguing; those mistakes have no basis in our responses or our attitudes. Likewise, if you think you can go and contradict previous teachings in Scripture, or completely disregard how earlier Christians understood God’s Written Word, then you’re walking on very dangerous territory.
      Third, nobody (barring nonChristians, obviously) thinks Christ’s special providence is not active in the world today. But that obviously doesn’t give us license to go back on revealed truths. I doubt you think God contradicts Himself. So if someone’s beliefs go against previous revelations, there’s something wrong.

      Now, what about the woman caught in adultery?
      Aha. And how do you know the guilty man was not present? Or the better question: Do you really believe that if the guilty man was in fact present and that all was being done exactly and to the last detail as the law commands – Christ would have behaved differently? Would have raised a stone to throw at the woman? I don’t believe you believe that.
      First point, we know the guilty man wasn’t there because the text would have mentioned him, but didn’t. But supposing the guilty man was there, because they didn’t present him to be stoned with the woman, the crowd was still doing something unlawful.
      Second point, I do believe He would have done something different (at least depending on the guilty man’s circumstances), but you offered a false dichotomy. However (rebutting your rhetoric), whatever He would have done, He wouldn't stone them, and for at least two reasons. First and foremost, stoning was part of the Old Testament ceremonial law, which found its fulfillment in His coming. Second, stoning was illegal in Rome at the time; the crowd would have blamed Him for the woman’s death. (I hope you can see what that entails.)
      Third point, Christ didn't stop the stoning because punishment per se is bad, He stopped it because those who wanted to stone the woman, as was said before, were acting on a sinful motive--they didn't want justice, they wanted to harm Him in some way out of hatred. Sending them away, He did justice to them, at the same time as He showed mercy to the woman.

      Delete
    14. Nice try, G&R. but you're sowing on rock. Matthew 7:6 is a good rule (and supports "don't feed the troll").

      But those are good responses. The one thing I think you left out is the fact that our trolls, by the nature of their approach, simply regurgitate the assumptions instilled in them at a particular time and place. This sort never reflects much on the fact that we too live in an "era" or "age", and that the common wisdom of our time is no more likely to be right than any other. The effect is to ignore anything in the tradition (which does represent many times and places) unless by chance it fits what they want to believe.

      Nice try, but all it will get you is another interminable series of comments, all saying the same thing.

      Delete
    15. Dianelos: I have explained what I mean by punishment, namely “hurting others as a “just deserts” for the evil they did”. I completely reject the idea that we have the right (never mind the obligation) to hurt others because “they deserve it”.

      I think you misunderstand the arguments of those like Feser on the legitimacy of punishment.

      The argument is that punishment, in order to legitimate at all, must first and foremost be deserved. Desert must be at the core of any disciplinary or corrective measure. Most people have an intuitive sense that this is true, which is why no one seriously denies it. And I suspect that, if pressed, not even you deny it.

      For example, you have argued for imprisonment of offenders for the following purposes: "1) to protect society, and 2) to reform inmates by giving them all opportunity and help to do so." But which offenders should be imprisoned? Murderers? Thieves? Jaywalkers?

      Jaywalking is dangerous, not only to the person doing it, but to drivers on the road. So let's say all jaywalking was punishable by no less than nine years is prison. Time enough to reform the offender, as well as protecting society from the offender's dangerous jaywalking ways.

      Most people might agree that jaywalking isn't good. Further, they might agree that people who do it should be subjected to some disciplinary measure to "reform" them from such a habit; and that society should be "protected" from jaywalkers in some way. However, most people would also say that there is something wrong with imprisoning jaywalkers for nine years.

      But why is it wrong to inflict such a disciplinary measure? And why do people have an intuitive sense that such a measure would be wrong?

      It is because the offense of jaywalking does not deserve nine years imprisonment, regardless of whether or not it would reform the offender and protect society. And most people have an intuitive sense that this is true. That is to say, most people have an intuitive sense that desert must be at the core of any disciplinary or corrective measure for it to be legitimate at all.

      The offender must first and foremost deserve the measure being applied to them, and only then are we concerned with other purposes of the measure (reform of the offender, protection of society, etc.).

      This does not mean that the measure the offender deserves must always and everywhere be applied. There must be a place for mercy where appropriate. But that can only be made sense of within the context of something deserved for an offense.

      Delete
    16. Correction: "The argument is that punishment, in order to be legitimate at all, must first and foremost be deserved."

      Delete
    17. @George LeSauvage
      Thanks. Others have told me not to argue with him, I really don't know why I'm so fixated on responding to him.

      Delete
  10. This is too far, Ed. You are in fact effectively arguing against Catholicism now, at this point.

    His Holiness has the regular submission to his religious authority on faith and morals. If he teaches it, it is Catholic doctrine.

    We cannot abstract the papacy from the Pope. This is a fool's game. Either we believe the Pope is the authentic teacher of the Catholic religion or we do not.

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  11. Timocrates,

    What exactly are you talking about?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I believe he was talking about this:

      “To the shepherds alone was given all power to teach, to judge, to direct; on the faithful was imposed the duty of following their teaching, of submitting with docility to their judgment, and of allowing themselves to be governed, corrected, and guided by them in the way of salvation. Thus, it is an absolute necessity for the simple faithful to submit in mind and heart to their own pastors, and for the latter to submit with them to the Head and Supreme Pastor.” (Pope Leo XII, Epistola Tua)

      Delete
    2. That quote was from Leo XIII, not XII.

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    3. far more obviously in conflict with Catholic tradition than anything Pope Francis has said.

      Delete
    4. Timocrates,

      As an example of Dr. Feser going too far, you use a paragraph in which Feser is critical of the NNLT advocates for claiming that Pope Francis has broken with tradition.

      What am I missing?

      Delete
  12. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

    I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

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    1. There is "ex cathedra," and there is "ex finestra." Are you sure you are making the appropriate distinctions? Dr. Feser will assure you, quite rightly, that there are no fewer than 5 kinds of papal teaching...

      I will give you an anecdote. When John XXIII climbed the Aventine one day, he looked out towards St. Peter's and said, "This is the best view of Rome. And that's infallible, because I'm the Pope."

      The end.

      Delete
  13. I initially thought this had to be sarcasm:

    This is too far, Ed. You are in fact effectively arguing against Catholicism now, at this point.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Timocrates has never been the same since the election, when it looked like Trump would lose for quite some time. He never recovered. Trump's pretty terrible performance so far is adding to the strain, clearly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Anonymous
      That was post was meant to be ironic, right?

      Delete
  15. Hello Edward Freser! I'm sure you have read it yourself, but for me one very useful way of how to think about Church tradition, papal infallibility and the possibility of novel doctrines comes from Elizabeth Anscombe's essay "Contraception and chastity". There she writes,

    "Among those who hoped for a change, there was an instant reaction that the Pope's teaching was false, and was not authoritative because it lacked the formal character of an infallible document. Now as to that, the Pope was pretty solemnly confirming the only and constant teaching of the Church. The fact that an encyclical is not an infallible kind of document only shows that one argument for the truth of its teaching is lacking. It does not show that the substantive hard message of this encyclical may perhaps be wrong - any more than the fact that memory of telephone numbers isn't the sort of thing that you can't be wrong about shows that you don't actually know your own telephone number. "

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    1. Heido, good quote. The teaching Church doesn't only affirm truths via formally issued ex cathedra statements under the Pope's authority as extraordinary acts of the magisterial power. She also teaches via lesser acts which are still acts of the Magisterium, such as restating more distinctly and more solemnly the very same truths that have already been affirmed since the time of the Apostles and without cease since. She also teaches, in a less definitive way, when she merely affirms without solemnity or new clarity the selfsame teaching of a Father or a Doctor that has been held universally throughout the Church and used and affirmed as part of the sense of the faithful. That an act of the second or third sort is not a formally ex cathedra statement is not to say that it does not come from the magisterial Church, nor does it say that it does not command assent. Certain it does not say it is wrong.

      The licitness of capital punishment had been taught in the third way (at least) for effectively a millenium even before Pope Innocent imposed his requirement on the Waldensians. One can argue about whether he raised it to the second level or not, but it has now been taught in the second way by John Paul II and Benedict.

      It is also true that teachings that have been given in the second way can be irreformable, just as teachings that have been taught in the first way (i.e. via formal and explicit ex cathedra statements).

      Anyone who imagines that a non-ex-cathedra statement by Francis is explicitly intended to depose a teaching put forth as definitively as that of the licitness of capital punishment, just misunderstands how the Church teaches.

      Delete
  16. He Dr. Feser, will By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed (and your upcoming books) be available on the Kindle webstore? Thanks!

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  17. Now of course we are to protect society from evil-doers and in some cases this requires to physically inhibit them from hurting society – such as by putting them in prison. But this should be done not as a retribution or punishment, but should be realized in a context of rehabilitation and education. We should care for our imprisoned neighbors and move the state to do its best for them. Which includes providing them with education, work, and even social life within the prison confines.

    By this line of thinking, it would be wrong to imprison (let alone execute) nonagenarian Nazis who are found spending their golden years quietly in some American suburb. After all, there is no need to imprison them to prevent them from massacring Jews any more; they haven't committed any violent crimes of any sort for 70 years, and aren't likely to commit any in their remaining years. And most would-be genocidists, warned that if they carried out their genocidal projects, would face the threat of punishment if they managed to live to 90, would probably be willing to take those odds, so punishing the 90-year-old Nazi isn't justified on the basis of deterrence. In fact, the only reason for punishing the 90-year-old Nazi is that he deserves it.

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    1. In vain to you respond to Dianelos, he is impervious to argument on this or any other subject. His premises he takes as manifested by divine light, and he will countenance no possible error in their respect. You could point to the fact that (a) St. Paul says that God chastises those he loves, and (b) that Proverbs TELLS us to punish our children for their wrongdoings, and that (c) the Pentateuch requires that we punish evildoers: it matters not. He will shrug off all evidence to the contrary to his fevered imaginings of "grace" and divine inspiration immediately felt. You can object that you too have exactly the same sort of divine inspirations, and they tell you the exact opposite of what his tell him. For him the objection is meaningless.

      Feed not the trolls.

      Delete
    2. @ Anonymous 4:57 PM


      By this line of thinking, it would be wrong to imprison (let alone execute) nonagenarian Nazis who are found spending their golden years quietly in some American suburb.

      Right, by my line of thinking it would be wrong. And to my understanding that is also Christ’s line. If Christ really did want us to refrain from punishing our fellow human beings, how much more clearly could He have said it? Is “judge not” and “do not return evil” and “if somebody wants your shirt offer him your cloak also” not clear enough?

      You know on theism the fundamental fabric of reality is moral. So God incarnates in Jesus of Nazareth to reveal to us loud and clear a way of being: the way of being of atonement. But ethical truth is such a basic and powerful part of sensible reality that some people long before God’s incarnation also taught us to not return evil. So, for example, we find Socrates in one of Plato’s dialogues matter-of-factly saying that it makes no sense to hurt those who hurt us. And claiming this with no argument as if it were a plain truth to be understood by anybody who actually looks. I find it interesting to note that Plato wrote this at about the same time much of the Old Testament was penned down.

      In fact, the only reason for punishing the 90-year-old Nazi is that he deserves it.

      I wonder, how do you know that? After all perhaps the 90-year-old Nazi has repented. And even if he hasn’t, who are you to judge that this neighbor deserves punishment? And even if this neighbor does deserve punishment, how do you know what punishment, and who gave you the right to mete it out?

      I can imagine two answers to this question, one theoretical and the other practical:

      The theoretical would be something like pointing out that Aquinas proves this as per his natural law ethical theory. (Let's overlook that this also satisfies our rather primitive natural instincts concerning evil-doers.) Well at this point we should decide whether it is better to follow Christ or Thomas. For if Thomism really claims that we should judge and mete punishment to our neighbors then in as far as it says this it contradicts Christ. Now I understand clever people can produce arguments that spin Christ’s message beyond recognition, but I wonder: Where’s the profit for one’s soul to study for many years a difficult philosophical system that arrives at a conclusion that contradicts Christ’s core ethical teaching as plainly recorded in the gospels? I am not saying that Thomism is therefore worthless; on the contrary I think it is a monumental work of philosophy. But I am saying that Thomism increases our understanding of truth only in as far as it motivates us to follow Christ’s commands: To love God and to love each other the way He did. That’s the axis around which all creation turns.

      The practical answer would be that unless we do punish evil-doers then civilized society will disintegrate, which would be a far greater evil. I can understand the emotional force of this argument but I think it is contradicted by reality. Above I pointed out the fact that those contemporary societies which do not focus on the punishment of evil-doers but mainly on protecting society from them, end up having less crime and less people in prison. I also tried to describe a system that avoids all punishment of evil-doers (that is, all move to hurt them), a system which therefore comports with Christ’s teaching, and which I think would produce even better results. It would be grossly inconsistent to believe that Christ’s teaching is not applicable in practice for ordering our society, and I see not the least good argument to the contrary.

      Delete
    3. You are alienating the action from the principle. The principle is, "We punish the wrongdoer, because he deserves it, because it deters, etc." Going around making tons of exceptions is arbitrary, no? Not a good recipe for justice.

      Perhaps you see it as taking God's place. But, as several of us have pointed out, that is contradicted by Scripture all over. A reading of Matthew 18, for example, that does not make the distinction between private individuals and public operators of the state, is one totally at odds with the clear purpose of Christ's exhortation. He is not giving a justice system for a State, He is giving a justice system for private individuals (also for the whole Church in one spot).

      And we come back to my critique that you are confusing vengeance with punishment. Private individuals "get even," the public judge and jury "get justice." And the justice system functions based on a principle, not a will.

      Your last point here confuses causation with correlation.

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    4. Jesus:"love your enemies"

      Proverbs: "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him."

      Dianelos: "But I don’t see any moral justification for punishment."

      See, the Bible says that one should love his children by punishing them when they do wrong, and Dianelos "doesn't see any moral justification" for punishment.

      Jesus nowhere says "do not punish" those who do wrong, he says to love them. The Bible shows that refusing to punish those who do wrong is hating them, and punishing them is part of loving them.

      Dianelos, of course, only picks the part of the Bible he likes. That's because he isn't using it as God's word, but as text support for his own feelings.

      You can't get through to him.

      Delete
    5. @ VRS,

      Thank you for directing me to Matthew 18. That was very helpful.

      Delete
  18. "And why should anyone trust a pope who contradicted his predecessors in this way? If they could all get things so badly wrong, why believe him?"
    --Why not? God very apparently wants different rules for different people at different times.

    If god wanted all of humanity to follow the same rules in all places and at all times he could have revealed those rules universally a very long time ago and never changed them. Obviously, he did not do that, and given his infinite powers that means this drip drip drip of revelation abrogating prior revelation must be the divine plan.

    So, I suggest you listen to your Vicarious Christ...new orders recently came from the boss and the boss has a long history of being very unkind to those who rebel.

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    1. I'm just going to put this here:
      Horus Reads the Internet
      And now you know why the rules "changed." Now if only I could find something convenient on the concept of synderesis, since that, I expect, would answer your whole "revealed those rules universally" objection.

      Delete
    2. It's 'Vicar of Christ', not 'Vicarious Christ'; a vicarious X is a substitute for it, 'vicar' is the name in canon law for a legal subordinate representing an ecclesiastical body or authority for some particular legal purpose. Only the very most unhinged anti-Catholic fundamentalist loons confuse the two; it requires a deliberate mistranslation of the Latin.

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    3. Brandon,
      As a pro-Catholic loon, I can assure you that "Vicarious Christ" works. Popular piety used to refer to the pope as "Sweet Christ on Earth." In fact, the popes themselves in encyclicals have taught that Christ is the Invisible Head of the Church, and the pope is the visible, but that the Church cannot for this reason be said to have two heads, but One.

      Delete
    4. Again, this is an abuse both of the title and of the English language; 'vicarious X' can only mean 'something that is a substitute for X' or, more rarely, 'a principal agent exercising an action involving such substitution'. Neither of these is in fact accurate; the Pope is Vicar of Christ, he is not Vicarious Christ. Applying "Vicarious Christ" to the Pope is a Protestant-invented trope that almost entirely endures among marginal fundamentalists. Neither of your points are relevant, since the one is obviously a hyperbolic metonymy and the other a description of in what sense the Pope is the Vicar of Christ. (All bishops are vicars of Christ; the Pope gets the title, taken as distinctive, by eminence of jurisdiction.)

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    5. In addition to what Brandon said, 'Vicarious Christ' does not work in English, not now it doesn't, even if it ever did (which is doubtful), because of connotations. Whatever its formal denotation, its connotation makes this an unacceptable phrasing. 'Vicar of Christ' is fine, it has a known and accepted connotation, convention has assigned it a due place. 'Vicarious Christ' is as bad as using 'notorious' when you mean 'famous'. The connotation of vicarious today bears too much of the sense of experiential substitute.

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    6. BrandonJune 8, 2017 at 9:17 AM

      " it requires a deliberate mistranslation of the Latin."
      Interesting, so the Bishop of Rome does not speak for Christ, he does not have the sole authority of scriptural interpretation by right of apostolic succession, he is not infallible, Christ does not inspire him, and he is not a conduit from Christ to humanity.

      I agree with you so you are admirably on your way to rationality. However, The Vicar of Jesus Christ does claim those roles and authorities for himself, and Vicar is derived fro vicarius as is vicarious. Vicarious is derived from vicar - ous.

      The claims the Bishop of Rome makes for himself, in combination with the derivations of the words makes the term "Vicarious Christ" both functionally and linguistically accurate.

      Delete
    7. TonyJune 8, 2017 at 5:57 PM

      "'Vicarious Christ' is as bad as using 'notorious' when you mean 'famous'. "
      --If a gangster tries to downplay the nature of his fame by calling himself merely "famous" it is appropriate to call him "notorious" instead to emphasize the depraved nature of his fame.

      Thus, the claims the Bishop of Rome makes for himself fully warrant the term "Vicarious Christ".

      Delete
    8. Interesting, so the Bishop of Rome does not speak for Christ, he does not have the sole authority of scriptural interpretation by right of apostolic succession, he is not infallible, Christ does not inspire him, and he is not a conduit from Christ to humanity.

      I did not say any of these things, nor are any of these things actually implied by pointing out your misrepresentation; for someone who likes to talk about rationality you seem to have considerable difficulty grasping what a rational argument actually says; it makes your pretenses to being rational seem very clumsy and buffoonish. For instance, it is in fact not, and never has been, the Catholic view, or anyone's view, that the Pope has sole authority of scriptural interpretation.

      Vicar is derived fro vicarius as is vicarious. Vicarious is derived from vicar - ous.

      Yes, this is exactly the argument of fundamentalist loons who don't understand how Latin, or any language, works. Vicarius as a noun doesn't mean 'vicarious'; it means only a legal deputy, and already did by the late Imperial period, which is when it entered ecclesiastical vocabulary. The English word 'vicarious' is a broader word coming from Protestant application of the adjectival form of the word (and only the adjectival form of the word) by analogy in contexts in which it had not been used before; in particular, to Christ in the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. All English uses of the word 'vicarious' come from this, and only this, Protestant generalized use, and the word has come to be a synonym with 'substitute'. Vicar, on the other hand, is a direct anglicization of the original Latin, and had no historical pressure to undergo this shift.

      The claims the Bishop of Rome makes for himself, in combination with the derivations of the words makes the term "Vicarious Christ" both functionally and linguistically accurate.

      Your argument depends on making claims about the Catholic position which have already been pointed out to be false, and on making claims about the language which have already been pointed out to be false. Nor do you in fact establish what you are claiming in any case, since none of the positions you attribute to Catholic theology actually establish vicariousness in the sense the word is used in English, nor does etymology on its own establish the meanings of words. Your argument is through and through trash, with false premises and shoddy structure.

      Delete
    9. BrandonJune 9, 2017 at 8:22 AM

      " it is in fact not, and never has been, the Catholic view, or anyone's view, that the Pope has sole authority of scriptural interpretation."
      --So the Pope can be wrong? Others are free to correctly interpret scripture otherwise? The Bishop of Rome claims papal infallibility. The means his interpretations are infallible and all those who disagree with his interpretations are wrong, thus his interpretations alone have the authority of god's truth.

      "Vicarius as a noun doesn't mean 'vicarious'; it means only a legal deputy,"
      --A legal deputy has the authority of the source of law. One is obligated to follow the instructions of a legal deputy. A legal deputy will cite statutes and carry out the orders of the legal authority.


      vicarious
      1Experienced in the imagination through the feelings or actions of another person.
      2Acting or done for another.
      ‘a vicarious atonement’


      "Your argument depends on making claims about the Catholic position which have already been pointed out to be false,"
      --Perhaps in your mind but not false by the claims the Bishop of Rome makes for himself, such as papal infallibility.

      "none of the positions you attribute to Catholic theology actually establish vicariousness in the sense the word is used in English,"
      --Vicarious just means "acting or done for another" which The Bishop of Rome claims for himself regarding Christ.

      The Pope claims to be acting for Christ.

      Delete
    10. All this reminds me of a line of Saki's, about " a sort of bovine ragging that suggested cows buzzing round a gadfly and thinking they were teasing it".

      Delete
  19. Dear Stars-in-your-eyes and Dust-in-your-head:

    You're a troll, and I shouldn't do this, but let's perform a thought experiment. In 1950, the Pope (your Vicarious Christ - stupid phrase), said "we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."

    Second part: we hypothesize that some future pope, John, in 2030, tells his subordinate Jaime, the cardinal in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "start preparing a declaration that says that Pope Pius XII was wrong, because Mary was not assumed into heaven."

    What is Jaime to say to himself: possibilities:

    (1) Pius XII was right and this Pope John is wrong.

    (2) Pope Pius XII was wrong and this Pope John is right.

    (3) They are both wrong.

    (4) They are both right: Pius XII was right in 1950, and John is right in 2030.

    (5) some other illogical option?

    I am pretty confident you will pick one of the illogical choices, but I want to see which one. Should be fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doubting June 8, 2017 at 6:16 AM

      "the Pope (your Vicarious Christ - stupid phrase),"
      Vicar of Christ (from Latin Vicarius Christi)
      vi·car·i·ous
      from Latin vicarius
      The Pope, officially known as Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God...
      ...is literally the Vicarious Jesus Christ, by claimed title.

      But I am just a "stupid" "troll"?


      "(5) some other illogical option?"
      --God only knows. God works in mysterious ways, through the Bishop of Rome, as the Vicarious Christ. Who are you to question the plan of the almighty?

      Delete
    2. @Stardusty Psyche:

      "But I am just a "stupid" "troll"?"

      Yes.

      People (e.g. Brandon) have explained exactly what was wrong, spectacularly wrong, with what you said. The titles you list do nothing to overturn the judgment, it just shows that you cannot read plain English or follow elementary reasoning. This is on par with you pretending to know logic and then blurting out malapropisms such as "confirming the consequent". And since you are an unhinged, delusional moron, unencumbered by any kind of learning, living in a fantasy land where you are an "atheist heavy weight" in the ring of rational argumentation, you double and triple down.

      But forget everything I said -- chalk it down to my own biases, stupidity, etc. Just look at the reactions of the overwhelming majority of the commentators: you are the butt of a pathetic joke. Don't you feel you have better chances wasting your time spreading your gospel elsewhere? Go away.

      Delete
    3. stop feeding the troll, it's a waste of time.

      Delete
    4. grodriguesJune 9, 2017 at 3:48 AM

      @Stardusty Psyche:
      "But I am just a "stupid" "troll"?"

      "Yes.
      This is on par with you pretending to know logic and then blurting out malapropisms such as "confirming the consequent"."
      --That is from another thread on another blog. Why do you continually cite snippets of what I have written elsewhere.?

      But, for clarity, and since there are technical problems on the 5 proofs page here where conversations have gone missing, it is true that if one asserts
      Motion therefore change
      Change
      Therefore motion
      that commits the fallacy of confirming the consequent.

      Among its many defects the First Way is so badly worded it can be read in a variety of ways, all of which amount to an unsound argument.

      To unpack exactly why the First Way is an unsound argument we must first determine which manner among several that the apologist is reading the argument. Pointing out that instance of confirming the consequent is part of that refutation process.

      Delete

    5. Motion therefore change
      Change
      Therefore motion
      that commits the fallacy of confirming the consequent.

      Tut Tut, that's what I get for merely following your words.

      The term is affirming, not confirming. The definitions of the words are nearly the same and the fallacy remains the case irrespective of word choice for the label of the fallacy.

      Delete
    6. I figure since I haven't found a convenient explanation of synderesis, I'll just point out that you won't find anything like
      Motion therefore change
      Change
      Therefore motion
      in the First Way unless you're torturing the text beyond recognition.

      In fact, if you knew the argument at all, you would know that it's more like this:
      (1) All change must be perpetually sustained.
      (2) Whatever is perpetually sustained has an external sustaining cause.
      (3) So all change has an external, sustaining cause.
      (4) All essentially ordered causal chains have a "first member" sustaining them.
      (5) Every instance of change is an essentially ordered causal chain (restatement of 3).
      (6) So every instance of change has a "first member" sustaining it.
      ...And so on, although after this stage we argue that the ultimate explanation for all change must itself be immutable. Nowhere do we find the slightest evidence of affirming the consequent.

      Delete
    7. Grace and Rust, stop feeding the trolls.

      Delete
    8. Grace and RustJune 9, 2017 at 5:51 PM

      " you won't find anything like
      Motion therefore change
      Change
      Therefore motion
      in the First Way unless you're torturing the text beyond recognition.
      --Actually, I am working from full text translations, which you above are not.

      "In fact, if you knew the argument at all, you would know that it's more like this:"
      --No, you have completely mangled the First Way. For a full text translation here is one source.
      http://iteadthomam.blogspot.ca/2011/01/first-way-in-syllogistic-form.html
      (compare to mangled version at June 9, 2017 at 5:51 PM)... "Nowhere do we find the slightest evidence of affirming the consequent."
      --From the link I provided we get these words of Aquinas:
      For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality.

      That in and of itself does not commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Back at June 9, 2017 at 3:48 AM grod referenced other posts I made on the Reppert blog. On that particular thread over 1600 comments long the First way has been examined in significant detail by me and a handful of others.

      On that blog the theists assert that in the context of the First Way "motion"="change". They use as justification for this claim the line I cite from Aquinas above.

      So now you have the backstory on how those particular theists affirm the consequent. Our friend grod was pointing out that on one of my posts there I used the word "confirming" instead of "affirming", hence his charge of "malapropisms", although his single example in no way justifies the plural, and my error is not so very egregious given that my substitute word has nearly the same meaning, and that fallacy goes by other names and the form of the argument of the theists in question remains fallacious irrespective of the label attached to the fallacy.

      To support the claim that motion=change one needs the converse wording:
      For the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality is nothing else than motion.

      That required wording would be the converse, hence the commission of the converse fallacy, also known as affirming the consequent.

      Delete
    9. @ Anonymous
      Seems like a forceful habit I have. Besides, sometimes trolls are just too fascinating for their own good.

      @ Psychodust
      Actually, I am working from full text translations, which you above are not.
      That's a load of unmitigated garbage. I have worked with such full text translations, not that you would know from just one comment. You on the other hand seem to need more than just a translation.

      No, you have completely mangled the First Way.
      This is an even more ridiculous instance of your silliness. Do you really think that the syllogized form given at Ite ad Thomam is the only way of spelling the First Way out? Because if you understood what I had written, you would realize that I accurately syllogized part of the First Way. If your complaint is that I didn't capture everything, I clearly admitted that when I said "...And so on."

      On that blog the theists assert that in the context of the First Way "motion"="change". They use as justification for this claim the line I cite from Aquinas above.
      Now let's suppose that "motion" does equal "change" for the moment (you seem to doubt that). Let's see what that does to your argument. Obviously, if X=Y, then X=>Y AND y=>X. Consequently, X iff. Y.
      So this means that you should have said:
      Motion iff. change
      Change
      Therefore motion
      Which is obviously not fallacious. Your attempt to block this argument is an indisputable failure. Anyone can tell that when Aquinas said For the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality is nothing else than motion, he was not employing converse wording, but giving a definition of what he means by "motion."

      Delete
    10. Grace and RustJune 10, 2017 at 5:25 AM

      @ Psychodust
      Actually, I am working from full text translations, which you above are not.
      "That's a load of unmitigated garbage."
      --I said "above". What you wrote above is not a full text translation, it is your interpretation of what Aquinas meant to say.

      SP No, you have completely mangled the First Way.
      "This is an even more ridiculous instance of your silliness. Do you really think that the syllogized form given at Ite ad Thomam is the only way of spelling the First Way out?"
      --A full text translation appears at the top of the page I referenced. Assuming the translation is accurate that is a primary source.


      "Now let's suppose that "motion" does equal "change" for the moment"
      --Ok, you want to introduce a supposition.

      "So this means that you should have said:
      Motion iff. change
      Change
      Therefore motion
      Which is obviously not fallacious. "
      --Only because you have introduced a supposition.

      "Your attempt to block this argument is an indisputable failure."
      --You introduced your own supposition into the argument, the supposition of a biconditional, making your argument invalid, and thus unsound.

      " Anyone can tell that when Aquinas said For the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality is nothing else than motion,"
      --He didn't say that.

      You are extremely confused.

      Aquinas said:
      "For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality."

      " he was not employing converse wording, "
      --You are, he did not. You are just making up that wording, as I did above. I clearly labeled it as "what one needs" after having cited the actual wording.


      Your failure to keep the true words straight with respect to a hypothetical converse shows your ability to read and interpret Aquinas is inadequate.

      Delete
    11. Is Water=H2O affirming the consequent?

      or simply if you're so allergic to it you can just replace the word "motion" in Aquinas' argument with "change" and that won't affect it what so ever.

      Delete
    12. @Psychodust
      I said "above". What you wrote above is not a full text translation, it is your interpretation of what Aquinas meant to say.
      So essentially, you're faulting me for giving an interpretation, rather than quoting the text? I figured you were a hypocrite, but this takes the cake; your entire attempt to catch Aquinas in an elementary fallacy is nothing more than a bad interpretation, which is what I was trying to correct in the first place.
      Mentioning your primary source doesn't help, because what I spelled out previously is perfectly in line with your source, and so doesn't count as mangling the First Way.

      Now let's go on with my "supposition." The fact is, I'm not the only one making that supposition; the people you say you were arguing against on the Reppert blog make that supposition, too. But even if I were alone, it's perfectly valid. If it's correct, then your entire case about affirming the consequent fails, and my argument proves sound.
      Indeed, the supposition is obviously correct, and none of your put downs make a dent against that case, as I will show.

      He didn't say that.
      I was sloppy, but anyone should be able to tell that misquote isn't relevant in the over all context. After all, when Aquinas says For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality in the original, this is clearly an assertion that motion="The reduction of something from potentiality to actuality," i.e. that motion=change. This would be true even if he had used the "made up wording." In either situation, Aquinas is giving a definition. And this is sufficient to prove that we don't have anything like affirming the consequent. The supposition stands.

      Delete
    13. Grace and RustJune 10, 2017 at 9:57 AM

      "Now let's go on with my "supposition." The fact is, I'm not the only one making that supposition; the people you say you were arguing against on the Reppert blog make that supposition, too. "
      --Argumentum ad populum


      "But even if I were alone, it's perfectly valid."
      --Based on what? You are not providing any argumentation support, just issuing a supposition ad hoc.

      " the supposition is obviously correct, "
      --Simply stating "it's obvious" is not an argument.


      " After all, when Aquinas says For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality in the original, this is clearly an assertion that motion="The reduction of something from potentiality to actuality," i.e. that motion=change."
      --No it isn't clear at all.

      This sentence is nothing else than words. It does not follow that words are nothing else than that sentence.

      Perhaps you claim that sentence is also ideas, keystrokes, messages on the internet, computer memory locations, and pixels illuminated on a monitor. Fine, but the converse of each of those further attributes are not that sentence either.

      Your assertion simply is not supported by the words in the First Way and you have provided no argumentation or grammatical analysis to support your claim.


      " Aquinas is giving a definition."
      --So you suppose for the purpose of asserting ad hoc that Aquinas meant to provide a biconditional definition. Your suppositions and ad hoc assertions have no argumentation power.

      Delete
    14. oh please do, shows us quotes from the ACTUAL work and explain to us the meaning of every word.

      come on we are waiting...

      Delete
    15. @Psychodust
      You're starting to sound even more unhinged. I'd ask you to take a break, but this probably is your idea of rest.

      Argumentum ad populum.
      It was perfectly clear that I did not say "those other people think X, so X is true." I said "I'm not the first one saying X, so don't treat me like this is new to the discussion."
      Second, I argued for this supposition farther down, and you haven't done a very good job rebutting the argument.

      When I point out that Aquinas must be giving us a definition of motion when he says For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality, you only deny that that is a definition. What makes it unclear? Nothing, really, because the natural way of reading a passage like that is to say that someone is defining a term; and the natural reading, even if incorrect, is clear. It is clear, and the burden of proof is on you to offer a plausible alternative definition. So far, you have only asserted an alternative, and it seems clearly contrived.
      But maybe your new analogy will shed light on what you have in mind. You said This sentence is nothing else than words. It does not follow that words are nothing else than that sentence. My impression is, you're saying that Aquinas thinks motion is simply a species of reduction of potency to act. That doesn't seem like a plausible reading, because in Latin, the terms "motus" and its derivatives had the broader meaning of change, not just translation through space.
      My assertion is supported by the natural reading, and by the actual terms used. But if you really want me to argue on grammatical analysis, you ought to do the same, rather than pretending I haven't given any argumentation at all.

      Finally, no, I did not suppose anything for the purpose of making an ad hoc assertion. The assertion isn't even ad hoc because the natural reading of a text is never ad hoc. Besides this, definitions are always biconditional. Whenever we define X as "a Y with properties A, B, and C," we say that whatever fits that definition is X. In fact, we are asserting "if something is an X, then it is a Y with properties A, B, and C," and "if something is a Y with properties A, B, and C, then it is an X." This is clearly a biconditional.

      Delete
    16. Grace and RustJune 10, 2017 at 2:35 PM

      @Psychodust

      " You said This sentence is nothing else than words. It does not follow that words are nothing else than that sentence. My impression is, you're saying that Aquinas thinks motion is simply a species of reduction of potency to act."
      --I don't know what Aquinas thought,and neither does anybody else. All we can do is read the words he wrote in the First Way and elsewhere.

      In the First Way itself Aquinas uses a form of the word "move" some 27 times, and "changes" just once. So, he was obviously capable of saying "change" if that is what he wanted to say, and in one case he distinguishes between moves and changes, indicating he may have thought they were at least to some extent different.

      How many sorts of change are there in A-T language?

      " That doesn't seem like a plausible reading, because in Latin, the terms "motus" and its derivatives had the broader meaning of change, not just translation through space."
      --Then I suggest you contact the translators and correct them on their sloppy interpretations of Latin word usages.

      " But if you really want me to argue on grammatical analysis, you ought to do the same,"
      --I clearly showed that the converse is fallacious by grammatical analysis. If you don't like that, well, sorry.


      "Finally, no, I did not suppose anything for the purpose of making an ad hoc assertion. The assertion isn't even ad hoc because the natural reading of a text is never ad hoc."
      --I naturally read that line as not a biconditional.

      If Aquinas had meant to say reduction of potential to actual is nothing else than motion he could have, but he didn't. You are inventing words that were not written down.

      " Besides this, definitions are always biconditional."
      --You are assuming it is a definition written in biconditional form. I provided a counter example to that assumption.


      You continually refer to "natural reading".

      What is the natural reading of these sentences?:
      "The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion."

      The natural reading is that we can sense that things move, they change position, and the following argument is going to be about things in motion, things changing position.

      Delete
    17. Grace and Rust, I'm sorry by SP is a drooling moron who has never said anything remotely interesting or intelligent.

      Delete
    18. SP, it is affirming the consequent, you congenital idiot.

      Delete
    19. @Anonymous
      I can't help but agree with you about Psychodust up there.
      I also realize that my fascination with trolls must be getting out of hand. Actually, this is worse than out of hand. I'll stop now.

      Delete
    20. While I wholly agree about the tollitude on display here, it's a bit picky to hit on the affirming the consequent point. It's a combox, and one which doesn't allow corrections. Anyone could misstate things.

      Of more consequence is the boneheadedness about Latin translations. Yes, English words, derived from Latin originals, have changed their meanings since the 13th C. But it is natural that such words as "move", "cause", "principle", and the like, are traditionally translated as their cognates in English. It baffles me that anyone can expect any older text (including English ones) to be put in the terms of today. Fortunately, we aren't restricted to 21st C Newspeak. But that does mean a willingness to read for the meaning, rather than looking for a chance to pounce, based on the first thing which jumps into ones head.

      Delete
    21. George LeSauvageJune 11, 2017 at 6:20 PM

      "Of more consequence is the boneheadedness about Latin translations. ... It baffles me that anyone can expect any older text (including English ones) to be put in the terms of today. "
      --I for one would be happy to just say Aquinas was a medieval thinker who based his ideas on outdated Aristotelian notions long since discredited and the paucity of words in the First Way together with difficulties of translation all combine to make Aquinas little more than a quaint historical figure whose arguments have no modern value.

      But that does not over very well among Thomists who seem convinced that the First Way is somehow a sound or even valid modern argument.

      This leads to endless parsing of and disagreements about the very few words provided.

      It doesn't matter a great deal to me which interpretation is chosen because they all fail as the argument is logically invalid and also contains untrue premises as well as being incomplete.

      Delete
  20. "Doubting June 7, 2017 at 5:31 PM

    In vain to you respond to Dianelos, he is impervious to argument on this or any other subject. His premises he takes as manifested by divine light, and he will countenance no possible error in their respect.



    I'd like to argue in favor of extending some, qualified, tolerance, as Ed Feser has obviously done, to limited numbers of the people we often call trolls.

    There are "trolls, and then there are "trolls", each with their obvious vices, and a few, who offer some incidental if unintentional gains to the reader.

    And these latter, would be the kind, who eventually reveal, if you are patient enough, the suppressed premises which serve as their intellectual launching points, when they go into their troll routines.

    Even these emotionalists usually have some rationale they tell themselves.

    For, although it is pretty obvious that emotional gratification is what they seek, they often have a major premiss or intellectual axiom which they guard or withhold through a fair number of exchanges.

    This hoarding of the secret conditioning assumption, is probably done for obvious reasons; as an outright declaration at the outset of, say, values nihilism, would pretty much cause those whom they wish to dispute to lose interest. Because, you don't talk to a nihilist, it is not a "fellow", you just deal with it.

    Nonetheless, eventually, intellectually significant facts of the type's psychology are revealed; as they cannot help soliciting some measure of personal validation from the very people they wish to discomfit.

    And, as we have seen here many times before, whatever their emotional motivations for trolling may be, they eventually often do stake out an intellectual position which is supposedly "justified" either by some flavor of fideism, or nihilism.

    That is to say, it becomes clear over time that at the deepest levels they believe that reality is in some ultimate sense unintelligible.

    And this is information critically worth having in real life when it comes to sorting categories and kinds and their associated costs.

    Spending a little capital now, and remembering the lesson gained, may save much later.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I was thinking that the epistemological principle of philosophy and indeed of all the sciences is “Assume that the human condition is intelligible and see what follows”. But reason explains why this principle fails at the level of theology: Intelligence always works based on mechanical law-based premises (such as the four causes in nature), but the closer one gets to the first mover the less mechanistic ways of thought are useful. Why? Because no mechanism is prior to the first mover. In theology then the more one holds on to intelligibility as a guiding principle the more probable it is to be led astray towards error. The knowledge of the first mover is ultimately knowledge by contact, existential knowledge, what modern philosophers call “knowledge by acquaintance”. After all given that even something as primitive as colors can be known only by acquaintance, it becomes rather obvious that it’s not the case that God can be known based on intelligibility.

    The epistemological principle of natural theology should be “First experience Christ and then reason about that experience”. If one uses this principle I claim one arrives at an understanding where 1) Anselm’s definition of God, 2) the whole of the human condition (including the presence of evil in the world we inhabit, as well as the experience of the ebb and flow of charity in one’s soul), and 3) Christ’s ethical message as plainly preserved in the gospels – all perfectly fit together and make easy and natural sense. And deliver the right metaphysical worldview, as well as ethical guidance to the problems of modern life.

    The obvious question is “How does one know it is Christ one is experiencing?” I think the answer is not difficult, and is given in the gospels: By its fruit. If reasoning about what one takes to be the experience of Christ one arrives at knowledge in which (1) and (2) and (3) naturally fit together, then it is obvious that the experience is indeed of Christ. But if it leads to confusion or complication or to reasons that dilute Christ’s ethical message or even contradict it – then one is certainly on the wrong path.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dianelos GeorgoudisJune 9, 2017 at 2:15 AM

      "In theology then the more one holds on to intelligibility as a guiding principle the more probable it is to be led astray towards error. "
      --Indeed. If one expects to be able understand and make sense of what one believes then theology is not suitable for that sort of person.

      Theology demands that one simply believe that which cannot be made sense of, that which is irrational.

      " it becomes rather obvious that it’s not the case that God can be known based on intelligibility."
      --Indeed, there is no way to reason your way to god, since all such attempts lead to irrationalities.

      "The epistemological principle of natural theology should be “First experience Christ and then reason about that experience”."
      --Indeed, that feeling of god is a real experience, like dreaming you can fly like a bird by flapping your arms is a real experience.

      One should indeed apply reason to such experiences. To what should one attribute the real experience of dreaming of arm flapping flight? The same sort of explanation can then be applied to the real experience of god.

      Delete
  22. Its amazing how those who have no intention of ever
    actually reading the book are most explosively expressive in the comboxes,
    You haven't refuted here all the stuff that I just made up, so you lose...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would you bother to read a book of astrology to seriously gain insight into the future, or a book of alchemy to seriously gain insight into compounding chemical substances?

      There are many thousands of books filled with unending nonsense. When the author and his adherents put forth positions that are demonstrably erroneous it is quite apparent there is nothing to be gained by enduring endless elaborations of errors.

      You, on the other hand, have much to gain by engaging with detractors capable of rationally discounting the notions of what would otherwise be just another little safe space.

      Delete
    2. Yes, there is much to be learned from reading the writings of uncongenial and obnoxious persons.
      For example, and to use an illustration I have employed before, an undergrad may learn from the writings of Margaret Mead, that smashing her head in if she becomes annoying, is not an objective wrong, but merely a culturally relative taboo.

      Puts things in perspective, it does.

      Delete
  23. This off-topic but I've been struggling with this. I'm primarily seeking an answer from Dr. Feser but I invite others to help me. Feser seems to acknowledge in Aquinas an TLS that Aquinas' presentation of the First Way doesn't get you to a First Mover that is pure act. Rather, one has to resort to this principle: "it is evident that anything whatever operates insofar as it is a being" (QDA 19). That is, just as causal power is ordered in a per se fashion and must ultimately trace back to a first mover who has causal power in a purely actual way, so too existence or being is ordered in a per se fashion and must trace back to a first mover who has its existence in a purely actual way.

    Feser seems to suggest that if something exists in a purely actual manner then it has no potencies at all. Does this follow though? I think this premise needs further justification. Why should I believe that something must be devoid of all potencies if its act of existence is non-derivative?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Red means classicaltheism.board host.com

      Delete
    2. AnonymousJune 9, 2017 at 9:36 AM

      This off-topic but I've been struggling with this. ... Why should I believe that something must be devoid of all potencies ?
      --You shouldn't because the notion of a "being in pure act" is incoherent. Those are just disconnected words assembled into a term in an attempt to justify the otherwise incoherent notion of a changeless changer, or unmoved mover that is also an unmoving mover.

      If the asserted first mover coexisted with objects that were motionless and then the first mover imparted motion into the first object that was moved, in that case the first mover changed from not imparting motion to imparting motion.

      So a mover necessarily changes in the process of moving something else. But this violates the notion of an unchanged changer and leads to further irrationalities applied to the asserted first mover.

      To "solve" this problem the notion of a being in pure act was written down. The term "being in pure act" is, however, an unintelligible idle speculation.

      Delete
    3. No, Psychodust, the idea of pure actuality is not incoherent. Let's see why your argument against immutability fails.
      Now you think that if the First Mover starts imparting motion to something else, then "it changed from not imparting motion to imparting motion." When we say "immutable," we mean that nothing changes within the First Mover. When the First Mover starts imparting motion on other things, the First Mover is not Himself changing. When God starts imparting motion, He relationships to other things change, but not Him. To reiterate, His relational properties change, but these are external to Him.
      Your objection rests on equivocating between different kinds of change.

      Delete
    4. @Grace and Rust:

      "When the First Mover starts imparting motion on other things, the First Mover is not Himself changing."

      God does not "start" anything whatsoever. Now, I realize that you know this, and I and everyone else knows that you know this, but the point of my pointing this out is that you are, even if inadvertently, throwing a bone for the troll to chew on.

      Delete
    5. Grace and Rust June 10, 2017 at 6:26 AM

      "Now you think that if the First Mover starts imparting motion to something else, then "it changed from not imparting motion to imparting motion." "
      --Yes, clearly, the notion of an immutable changer is incoherent.

      "When we say "immutable," we mean that nothing changes within the First Mover. "
      --Yes, I realize that is your incoherent utterance.

      "When the First Mover starts imparting motion on other things, the First Mover is not Himself changing."
      --How does that work? Does this changer make a decision? Is it a mechanistic deterministic process? Are you asserting intrinsic randomness?

      Or are you merely blurting out "it just does"?

      " When God starts imparting motion, He relationships to other things change, but not Him. "
      --If nothing about the changer changes then the same things are going to continue to happen. If nothing about the changer changes while coexistent with motionless objects then nothing is going to change at all.

      The act of transitioning from not imparting change to imparting change is necessarily a change of the changer.

      "To reiterate, His relational properties change, but these are external to Him."
      --Then he is not the changer because things outside of him are imparting the change, not him.

      You are speaking incoherently.

      Delete
    6. @Grodrigues
      You're right about misusing the term "start" here--I was thinking too much about the troll's supposition. I need way more practice with this!

      @Psychodust
      It's clear you don't have the slightest idea what I meant when I said that God's relational properties are external to Him.
      You're also assuming that God makes decisions the same way we do. This is false, because God's decisions are eternal. This does not make His decisions mechanical, because nothing external to God necessitates them; nor does this make them random, because they are voluntary.

      Delete
    7. Grace and Rust,

      I’d like to contribute a different kind of response to the apparent conceptual problem of an “unmoving mover”. The main idea is that if one accepts the reality of an event within the natural world one cannot deny its possibility, or affirm its incoherence, in the much more liberal context of supernaturalism. Well, as it turns out according to modern physics there exist physical unmoving movers. Some examples:

      The signature experiment of quantum mechanics is the so-called double slit experiment. Here, say, a photon shot towards two slits will sometimes pass through the left slit and light a detector there, or alternatively through the right slit lighting another detector. The respective change (say, light the left instead of the right detector) is caused without any change occurring in the photon, which after all is a physical primitive with no moving parts. Another example would be the radioactive decay of some particle. No movement within that particle (or within anything else) causes the decay to happen in a particular instant. (There are many other examples; n principle all movement in the physical world is initiated by unmoving movers). - Now such implications drove Einstein crazy because they contradicted his metaphysical assumptions (atheists too have a lot of deep-rooted metaphysical assumptions but they are often not aware of this fact). So he worked hard to demonstrate that QM must be an incomplete theory and that there are physical causes for such strange phenomena (for example so-called hidden variables). Today there is overwhelming evidence that Einstein was mistaken and the QM is a complete theory. But if it makes sense to believe that a lowly physical particle can be an unmoving mover, surely it makes sense to believe the same for God. On theistic metaphysics the implication is that God allows random events to obtain in the physical universe – a view Plantinga in a private communication to me appears to find unpalatable. As far as I am concerned though God’s structure of physical law beyond its obvious use for ordering our experience of life, also serves as a tool of revelation. Significantly, the reality of chance vastly simplifies theodicy.

      Now come to think of it, another line of responding is to challenge the doubter to point out where the incoherence lies. Where exactly is the contradiction? It is true that in our everyday experience with mid-sized physical objects it appears that a physical system can cause change outside of it only by changing itself. But why should we generalize from this everyday experience to everything that may exist? I say a good epistemological principle is to assume by default that everything is possible. The one who claims impossibility (or incoherence, or even mere implausibility) has the burden to explain why exactly.

      Delete
    8. Grace and RustJune 10, 2017 at 9:36 AM
      @Psychodust
      "It's clear you don't have the slightest idea what I meant when I said that God's relational properties are external to Him."
      --Do tell. How very kind of you then to enlighten me.


      "You're also assuming that God makes decisions the same way we do."
      --Quite the contrary, I am not assuming the particular incoherency you intend to utter, rather, I am waiting to see what form of oxymorons you choose to assert before going any further.

      " This is false, because God's decisions are eternal."
      --A decision is a change in a data processing structure. If a "decision" has always existed and will always exist then in what sense is it a decision? In that case it is merely a static structure.


      " This does not make His decisions mechanical, because nothing external to God necessitates them; nor does this make them random, because they are voluntary"
      --Ok, so god makes voluntary decisions internal to himself that change his relations to the eternal and only change things external to himself without changing himself, thus causing changes in a time sequence of external events without himself experiencing a time sequence of events.

      Utter word salad.

      That's not an argument, it's not even a hypothesis, it is total gibberish.

      Delete
    9. Dianelos GeorgoudisJune 10, 2017 at 10:51 AM

      " Another example would be the radioactive decay of some particle. No movement within that particle (or within anything else) causes the decay to happen in a particular instant."
      --How do you, or anybody else know that? Physics is incomplete, obviously. At this time all we have is a probability function that describes how large numbers of events occur over time. The causal mechanism has not yet been identified.

      String theory is one attempt to discover a causal mechanism for the unknowns in modern physics. String theory has not come to fruition and is likely completely wrong, but the work goes on, not by arm waving incoherent properties of gods, but by painstaking research.

      " (There are many other examples; n principle all movement in the physical world is initiated by unmoving movers)."
      --Nonsense.

      " Today there is overwhelming evidence that Einstein was mistaken and the QM is a complete theory."
      --Nonsense. There are many remaining unknowns in physics, among them the glaring incompleteness of QM.


      " But why should we generalize from this everyday experience to everything that may exist?"
      --Because it is not just every day experience, it is confirmed in every physics experiment and every physics theory and the alternative is incoherent.

      In every example you cite above there is never a change caused without a change to what we call the changer. Thus the very notion of measurement is at base false, as J S Bell wrote about. You can find an interesting review of a modern approach to causality here:
      http://wase.urz.uni-magdeburg.de/mertens/teaching/seminar/themen/AJP001261.pdf

      In your example of radioactive decay, for example, when a nucleus decays particles or radiation are emitted, and the nucleus itself changes.

      We never see at any level a case of a thing causing change without itself being changed, the very notion being utterly irrational.

      " I say a good epistemological principle is to assume by default that everything is possible. "
      --Absurd. If everything is possible then everything would be happening and our existence would be utter chaos. The opposite is true. Of all the mathematical expressions that can be written to hypothesize physical systems only a tiny subset are physically possible as evidenced by the highly regular patterns of physical progress we observe.

      Delete
    10. So if a ball, by itself, rolls to a particular direction that would be irrational? XD

      you kidding me XD?

      That might be case about everything, with ideas like cause and effect lying in different bodies being a complete illusion that just happens to fit the data.

      StarShitHead, say it properly, it is irrational TO YOU for reasons you never disclosed, but most likely is your Personal Version of Scientism that is in play here.

      Btw, if you DO believe in Science's Theories you should know, no particle causes itself to move, the cause of movement always lies elsewhere. Physics 101 in First semester of Physics XD!

      Delete
    11. A epistemological principle does not mean, a principle of how the world works you idiot. Geez man, you are too stupid for words. You are so driven by your butthurt feelings you don't even notice the crap you are saying XD.

      Delete
    12. EduardoJune 10, 2017 at 12:25 PM

      "StarShitHead, ...
      no particle causes itself to move, the cause of movement always lies elsewhere. Physics 101 in First semester of Physics XD!"

      "Dianelos Georgoudis June 10, 2017 at 10:51 AM

      " Another example would be the radioactive decay of some particle. No movement within that particle (or within anything else) causes the decay to happen in a particular instant.""


      Perhaps you will now invent a colorful mangling of Dianelos Georgoudis.

      Delete
    13. EduardoJune 10, 2017 at 12:26 PM

      "A epistemological principle does not mean, a principle of how the world works you idiot."
      --Interesting, so, gaining knowledge in general, and knowledge about motion specifically is disconnected from how the world works.

      Theists say the darndest things.

      Delete
    14. No, what about you invent an argument, to show that your position is right when you want to convince people otherwise huh?

      Delete
    15. Interesting, so, gaining knowledge in general, and knowledge about motion specifically is disconnected from how the world works.

      Theists say the darndest things.


      ------------------------------------

      And atheists only say shit, evidence being you and all the trolls that show up around here from time to time.

      Epistemological principle... which your butthurt ass read Epistemological theory. Dianelos is saying that we should start with that principle to reason about something.

      Atheists reason the darnest ways...

      Delete
    16. @Psychodust
      I don't see much of a reason to tell you what I meant, since it was clear the first time around to anyone who isn't being ridiculous.
      How about you tell me exactly what you think I meant, since my assertion was just another interpretation?

      Your other claims only prove my assertions.
      For one thing, whereas you pretend that you aren't making any assumptions about how God makes decisions, you obviously did so when you defined "decision" for me. And it's exactly that definition that I deny applies to God--indeed, it couldn't meaningfully apply to God, because "a change in a data processing structure" only makes sense if God somehow acquires new information which is impossible (even if He were mutable) because He is omniscient! Still, at least your rhetorical question is sensible: an eternal decision is properly called a decision because the agent making it is a voluntary agent.

      Ok, so god makes voluntary decisions internal to himself that change his relations to the [external] and only change things external to himself without changing himself, thus causing changes in a time sequence of external events without himself experiencing a time sequence of events.
      If I understand your attempted summary correctly, yes. But that's obviously not word salad. If you think so, then you obviously don't know enough about the background I'm working with.
      What is there not to understand?
      1- God eternally wills something (and this counts as a decision because it is voluntary). To illustrate, suppose He wills the proposition "P is true at T." (I'm sure you have a lot of baggage on the philosophy of time you'll want to throw at me.)
      2- This being the case, P will be true at T, because God's will causes things to be true (I can only imagine how badly you'll twist that statement).
      3- This doesn't require a change in God.
      4- However, because things in the world change as a consequence, the way they relate to God necessarily changes.
      That's perfectly straightforward, whether its wrong or not, and is obviously coherent. And of course, since I gave this outline, you'll just deny everything I wrote in it, getting it all wrong along the way.

      Delete
    17. Grace and RustJune 10, 2017 at 1:56 PM

      @Psychodust
      "How about you tell me exactly what you think I meant, since my assertion was just another interpretation?"
      --Sorry, you kind of lost me on this one. I mean, I appreciate you taking the time to ask me a question but I don't know what you are asking for...maybe we can cover something more specific below.

      "whereas you pretend that you aren't making any assumptions about how God makes decisions,"
      --Well, I don't think I said exactly that. I am mostly trying to obtain some cohesive set of assertions regarding this god of yours.

      " only makes sense if God somehow acquires new information which is impossible (even if He were mutable) because He is omniscient! "
      --Ok so your formulation has god knowing everything already, never learning anything because he already knows everything and always has for all eternity.

      God never changes either, so everything about his structure is fixed and immutable and always has been for all eternity.

      So, god is a clockwork. God is completely deterministic. God has no free will. God is a mechanistic robot.

      "Still, at least your rhetorical question is sensible: an eternal decision is properly called a decision because the agent making it is a voluntary agent."
      --Wait up there buckaroo. How can god volunteer anything? He has always known everything, he has always predetermined everything in all of existence for all eternity without ever himself changing at all. Yet he somehow "volunteers" to do things? Your god is a mechanistic robot incapable of any voluntary actions of any sort since he never changes, you say.

      1- God eternally wills something (and this counts as a decision because it is voluntary). To illustrate, suppose He wills the proposition "P is true at T." (I'm sure you have a lot of baggage on the philosophy of time you'll want to throw at me.)
      --Indeed, but again, the notion of an eternally constant being somehow doing something voluntarily is self contradictory.

      2- This being the case, P will be true at T, because God's will causes things to be true (I can only imagine how badly you'll twist that statement).
      --If by "will" you mean "free will" then you again contradict yourself. On an omniscient god all free will, including its own, is impossible. To assert omniscience and free will simultaneously is incoherent.

      3- This doesn't require a change in God.
      --Free will requires an absence of omniscience. Or do you imagine a will that is somehow not free?

      4- However, because things in the world change as a consequence, the way they relate to God necessarily changes.
      --To impart change a being must itself change. To think that an unchanging thing can impart change is just magical thinking. You might just as well assert poof.

      "That's perfectly straightforward, whether its wrong or not, and is obviously coherent."
      --No, actually, it is incoherent as detailed above.

      " And of course, since I gave this outline, you'll just deny everything I wrote in it, getting it all wrong along the way."
      --If you can reconcile omniscience and free will, please, by all means, do so, because they are mutually exclusive by any logic I have yet encountered.

      Further, it would be great if you could provide some logical rationale as to how an unchanging thing imparts change, because to me that sounds like poof, like snapping your fingers and a pile of gold suddenly appears, the stuff of imaginations of magic.

      Delete
    18. Grace and RustJune 10, 2017 at 1:56 PM

      "That's perfectly straightforward, whether its wrong or not, and is obviously coherent."

      According to W L Craig the Thomistic view is "unintelligible".
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GVhDz1jUQI&feature=youtu.be

      Feser acknowledges that the Thomistic view is "incomprehensible", but dismisses this as just a human shortcoming of comprehension, not a demonstration that the incomprehensible is not nevertheless the case.
      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2016/04/craig-on-divine-simplicity-and-theistic.html?m=1

      Either way "unintelligible" or "incomprehensible" amount to "logically incoherent".

      By whatever word one prefers, unintelligible, incomprehensible, incoherent, your asserted properties of god simply do not make sense.

      Delete
    19. Yeah... those words are totally synonymous XD.

      Delete
    20. Stardusty, why do you keep commenting here if you don't agree with anything?

      Delete
    21. AnonymousJune 11, 2017 at 8:05 AM

      "Stardusty, why do you keep commenting here if you don't agree with anything? "
      --I will ask you the reverse, why do others keep posting merely to agree with each other? Is it the sense of community, fellowship, comradery to continually post "me too"? Well, OK, if that interests you, that's fine.

      I don't typically discuss my motivations because they are not demonstrable. Anybody can get on line and claim anything. But I will tell you and you can take it for what it is worth to you, perhaps nothing at all.

      Those who disagree with me do me a great personal favor when they point out an error of mine, because that means I have learned something. I am unlikely to uncover my own errors by expressing my opinions among those who agree with me, which is why I rarely post in agreement. So, discovery of my errors and my personal growth thereby is my selfish reason.

      My altruistic reason is to provide the same service to others.

      Delete
    22. EduardoJune 10, 2017 at 11:57 PM

      "Yeah... those words are totally synonymous XD."

      un·in·tel·li·gi·ble
      impossible to understand.
      "dolphin sounds are unintelligible to humans"
      synonyms: incomprehensible, indiscernible, mumbled, indistinct, unclear, slurred, inarticulate, incoherent, garbled

      --So, yes, in common use those terms are synonyms of each other.

      However, as technical terms some distinctions can be made, as Feser writes:
      To be sure, Thomists do say that God is “incomprehensible” in the sense that our minds -- accustomed as they are to understanding things by analyzing them or breaking them down into their constituent parts -- have great difficulty grasping the nature of that which is utterly simple or non-composite. But the incomprehensibility here derives, not from any unintelligibility in God (as it would if God had no essence), but rather from the limitations on our finite intellects.


      So, here Feser claims a distinction between a god that is intrinsically unintelligible because it is devoid of essence, as opposed to a god that is potentially intelligible by a being of sufficient powers of comprehension, yet remains incomprehensible to human beings owing to our insufficient powers of comprehension.

      An incoherent argument is typically self contradictory or simply a collection of disjointed words sometimes called a word salad.

      All 3 terms, unintelligible, incomprehensible, and incoherent share a common pragmatic trait, they just don't make sense.

      If you choose to believe on faith something that admittedly does not make sense that is your personal choice, but rather than join you I will simply say "I don't know".

      If you insist that a thing that plainly does not make sense somehow does make sense then I will show you how, specifically, you are wrong.

      Delete
    23. I will ask you the reverse, why do others keep posting merely to agree with each other? Is it the sense of community, fellowship, comradery to continually post "me too"? Well, OK, if that interests you, that's fine.

      Funny Most peple here don't agree with each other on many things, hence why there is discussion among people. Funny is that you probably noticed it, but being the lying sac of shit that you are, you pretend it is not happening. Another thing... Funny how you pretend you are gaining something out of this while at the same time saying you have nothing to gain from reading anything Theists say. Hypocritical, lying sac of shit (that is what you are, HLSOS)

      I don't typically discuss my motivations because they are not demonstrable.

      Your motivations are harassment, lying, trolling. We know why you are here, you don't need to act mysterious and pretend that you are a deep person since we know you are not.

      Those who disagree with me do me a great personal favor when they point out an error of mine, because that means I have learned something...

      My altruistic reason is to provide the same service to others.


      This ladies and gentlemen is what a insane person sound like. He harass other people, lie, offend other people, have little in terms of arguments, asks for no clarifications and already said he has nothing to learn here... but it was all for love, he is offering us a favor with his shit! Thumbs up for your therapist mate, whatever that person is, made you a complete wacko in self denial!



      synonyms: incomprehensible, indiscernible, mumbled, indistinct, unclear, slurred, inarticulate, incoherent, garbled
      --So, yes, in common use those terms are synonyms of each other.


      So are logical contradiction impossible to understand because it can't be grasped by our intellect? You stupid? Don't you see that the reason, even idiots like you use contradiction is because you understand it as being false?!?
      Now, maybe the word in English might be the same, I personally don't see how, since it makes no sense saying that 2=3 is unintelligigle... yeah! I can't possibly grasp the idea written there, what could these mathematical symbols mean!?!
      Sorry, but I disagree with your dictionary definition since philosophy does suck at following the dictionary, it wouldn't really be a surprise for these things to happen.
      But thank you, have no idea those terms were used as synonymous, it is just interesting to know that.



      Delete
    24. So, here Feser claims a distinction between a god that is intrinsically unintelligible ...

      So... I can't grasp infinity... is that unintelligible? is all limits in mathematics unintelligible? Okay, so let me get a page out of your book. Go to academia and tell all Mathematicians and Physicists that all they are doing is word salading around.

      An incoherent argument is typically self contradictory or simply a collection of disjointed words sometimes called a word salad.

      A word Salad is a collection of words with no meaning. Logical contradictions are not word salads, because we can undertand what they mean, and know exactly where it goes wrong.

      All 3 terms, unintelligible, incomprehensible, and incoherent share a common pragmatic trait, they just don't make sense.

      I use to find english without translation, initially, incomphensible... so I guess you people never made sense until I understood what you meant. Okay, nice to know that.

      If you choose to believe on faith something that admittedly ...

      Thanks for virtue signalling, but I don't give a crap about your moral decisions... I will be the judge of what I find justifiable to believe in and you do that for youself... not that you could, or can stop bitching about others but hey...

      If you insist that a thing that plainly does ...

      Sorry, but I don't remember counting on you to show me anything, considering you are a hack, a liar, a troll... I'm sorry if I am skeptical of anything you have to offer. Nah just kidding, I'm not sorry. So show me, yes, why exactly... EXACTLY... God's Essence can't be grasped by our intellects.

      Delete
    25. EduardoJune 11, 2017 at 11:20 AM

      So, here Feser claims a distinction between a god that is intrinsically unintelligible ...

      " Go to academia and tell all Mathematicians and Physicists that all they are doing is word salading around."
      --Ok, an actual infinite is irrational. Infinity is a useful concept in both theoretical and applied mathematics, but that does not mean infinity necessarily has a physical realization.

      What makes the use of infinity in math not word salad is the explicitly postulated nature of mathematics. Mathematics is not proved, only postulated. Within the stated system of postulates infinity is coherent, but no proof exists of its physical realization.

      Delete
    26. "Stardusty, why do you keep commenting here if you don't agree with anything? "
      --I will ask you the reverse, why do others keep posting merely to agree with each other? Is it the sense of community, fellowship, comradery to continually post "me too"? Well, OK, if that interests you, that's fine"

      ok, there is nothing that annoys me more than a person answering a question with a question. If you can't answer properly, then don't answer at all.

      Delete
    27. AnonymousJune 11, 2017 at 2:42 PM

      " If you can't answer properly, then don't answer at all."
      --Did you read all of June 11, 2017 at 9:56 AM? I believe I answered your question rather thoroughly. Is there something specific you think I left unanswered?

      Delete
    28. EduardoJune 11, 2017 at 11:20 AM

      SP So, here Feser claims a distinction between a god that is intrinsically unintelligible ...

      " So show me, yes, why exactly... EXACTLY... God's Essence can't be grasped by our intellects."


      *To be sure, Thomists do say that God is “incomprehensible” in the sense that our minds -- accustomed as they are to understanding things by analyzing them or breaking them down into their constituent parts -- have great difficulty grasping the nature of that which is utterly simple or non-composite. But the incomprehensibility here derives, not from any unintelligibility in God (as it would if God had no essence), but rather from the limitations on our finite intellects. *
      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2016/04/craig-on-divine-simplicity-and-theistic.html?m=1

      Those are the words of Edward Feser, not my words, as I clearly stated when I wrote "Feser acknowledges that the Thomistic view is "incomprehensible"," on June 10, 2017 at 11:17 PM and provided this same link for reference.

      Feser said "To be sure, Thomists do say that God is “incomprehensible” " and went on to elaborate what specifically he meant by that.

      So, if you disagree with that analysis all I can suggest is that you contact Feser and express your concerns.

      My point remains that whether one asserts the Thomistic god is unintelligible (Craig), incomprehensible (Feser), or incoherent (me) god simply does not make sense.

      That which is unintelligible does not make sense.
      That which is incomprehensible does not make sense.
      That which is incoherent does not make sense.

      I will leave it to Craig and Feser to defend their positions, but you can find an introduction to my position on this page June 10, 2017 at 8:44 PM.

      Delete
    29. @SP
      incoherent notion of a changeless changer
      You need to read more around here before saying stupid things like this.
      Objects of desire move (change) us without necessarily being changed themselves; indeed, when we want something just as it is, we fix that thing just as it is in our mind. Now fixing the object in our mind results in its being unchanged but this is exactly what moves us to change; if the object changes from what is/was desired, it ceases to move (change) us.

      There is absolutely nothing incoherent about a changeless cause of change.

      Delete
    30. timocratesJune 12, 2017 at 7:55 PM

      @SP
      incoherent notion of a changeless changer

      "Objects of desire move (change) us without necessarily being changed themselves"
      --It seems that you have a rather vague notion of causality with respect to a physical positional change (motion) or any other imagined sort of change (since all known sorts of change require a physical positional change of something).

      " when we want something just as it is, we fix that thing just as it is in our mind."
      --How do you know that thing exists? Let's just suppose all you did was observe object of desire D. That means light emanated from D, probably by reflecting off D. The light itself moved and in the process of reflecting the object itself was changed.

      " Now fixing the object in our mind results in its being unchanged"
      --I have already shown this is not the case. Further, you have now describe the workings of your brain, a highly complicated data processing network that is quite apparently continually changing.

      " but this is exactly what moves us to change;"
      --Your use of the word "exactly" is inappropriate. You are changing for a vast number of reasons involving your metabolism, circulation, and brain function in a humanly uncountable multitude of causes and effects.

      You have simplified this vast system of continual changes into just a few concepts of an external object, observation, your mind, and a feeling or set of a few feelings.

      Calling your simplified and idealized model "exact" is like saying 10^10 is exactly 5.

      " if the object changes from what is/was desired, it ceases to move (change) us."
      --Here you again display a vastly oversimplified notion of causality, what D is, how it changes when observed, and how that observation is processed in your brain.

      "There is absolutely nothing incoherent about a changeless cause of change."
      --Sorry timocrates, you have some underdeveloped notions of causality. I suggest you take a look at "Against Measurement" by J S Bell for exposure to modern thought on what causality means.

      Here is a good paper on Bell to look at. I suggest you consider that causal influences are said, in some sense, to propagate in a light cone. The paper goes into detail of what is meant by that.
      "John S. Bell’s concept of local causality"
      http://wase.urz.uni-magdeburg.de/mertens/teaching/seminar/themen/AJP001261.pdf

      Delete
  24. Hey Dr. Feser, sorry to keep asking but will By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed be available on the Kindle webstore?

    ReplyDelete
  25. It's hilarious to see that the comments related to the quoted parts have no relation whatsoever or demonstrate a hard time to understand English lol.

    Maybe if I do some crack, the Trolls words might make sense XD!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Son of Yakov, I love ya and I understand your frustration with SP, but those remarks were over the top and liable to take the thread in the direction of mere abuse-flinging, so I deleted them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wasn't there talk of deleting SP posts?

      Delete
    2. What you are referring to was an earlier thread under a different post where the specific problem was that the discussion had started to degenerate into mere name-calling. And what I said was that if that particular thread continued in that particular vein I would start deleting comments. I didn't say I would delete only SP's comments, I didn't say I would delete all comments from SP in the future, I didn't say I would delete all troll-ish comments, and I most certainly didn't say I would be carefully policing all discussion threads on other posts in the future to see if my directive was being followed. I have zero time for that.

      Look, it's pretty simple, people. If someone behaves like a troll -- making stupid comments that reflect little or no knowledge of the subject matter, an inability or unwillingness to follow a line of argument or to get the facts, or whatever it might be -- then it is foolish to continue to engage with such a person and thereby to ruin a discussion thread. But in general I don't delete that sort of thing. When I happen to notice that things have descended to mere name-calling and the like, then I'll delete something, but in general I prefer a laissez faire policy and ask people to use their common sense. So if you don't like what SP, or Dianelos, or Santi, or whoever is saying, then for goodness sake just stop taking the fricking bait. Don't expect me to swoop in and read through all that stuff to determine what is and what is not within non-trollish bounds.

      Delete
    3. Doctor, I wish I could just be like you, and be so self assured... but I can't... I am more FairyDusty than EddyPhaser.

      Delete
    4. @ Edward Feser,

      So if you don't like what SP, or Dianelos, or Santi, or whoever is saying, then for goodness sake just stop taking the fricking bait.

      Well I agree. I have the rule never to answer to posts that I find bothersome. Why should I? It’s a waste of time for all involved. For obvious reasons the principle silence implies consent does not hold in the context of internet comments. My other rule is to never make personal references to the other person; that too is a waste of time and if anything reveals a lack of argument.

      Delete
    5. Fair enough. But SP in particular seems to be spreading like a rash and have taken over and ruined several combox discussions now with his pure idiocy. It would be a shame if he and those like him change the whole tenor if discussion here, as happened for example at Victor Reppert's blog for a good long time.

      Delete
    6. I understand the worry, but never fear. Lots of trolls have come and gone here over the years after causing only temporary and relatively minor disturbance. The key, again, is for people to stop feeding them, and eventually people do figure this out and start ignoring them. That usually solves the problem. And if a desperate troll responds to being ignored by ramping up the attention-seeking behavior by posting comment after comment after unanswered comment, then I do start deleting. As long as people keep trying actually to engage a troll, however, I tend to keep hands off and let people decide for themselves when they're wasting their time.

      Delete
    7. Edward FeserJune 11, 2017 at 11:12 AM
      "... mere name-calling."
      --A reasonable concern. It might be interesting to search this thread for expletives an ad hominems to see which posters use them and correlate that usage with the quality of their arguments. When the post contains that kind of language I just skim over it because I find it so boring.

      "an inability or unwillingness to follow a line of argument or to get the facts, or whatever it might be"
      --Indeed, the attribution of "troll", as near as I can tell on this thread, is merely an excuse people make here for just that inability or unwillingness. I have yet to encounter a theist here who displayed the ability and willingness to "follow a line of argument or to get the facts". The attribution of "troll" seems to be some sort of substitute for actually defending their positions when I use rational argumentation to demonstrate defects in them.

      Delete
    8. >I use rational argumentation to demonstrate defects in them..

      HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!ROTFLOL!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!ROTFLOL!

      No, stop it dude you are killing me......HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!HAHA!................

      Delete
    9. I think Dainelos makes a good point that in internet discussion silence certainly doesn't imply the point is conceded. I think some posters think it is necessary to respond to SP lest it appear he has made points theists and Thomists can't respond to. His patented combination of astonishing ignorance and arrogance is just designed to draw such posters into responding. But they shouldn't be drawn in. Any remotely sensible and impartial observer can see SP is a moronic troll and unworthy of response. Such observers won't think it means we are conceding any ground to him if ignore him just as he so justly deserves.

      Delete
    10. @Anonymous:

      "I think Dainelos makes a good point that in internet discussion silence certainly doesn't imply the point is conceded."

      That is certainly true, but there is another point that should be born in mind. Stardusty Psyche is a prototypical case of a bulshitter, a bulshitter in the Frankfurtean sense. When he says something like 'I have yet to encounter a theist here who displayed the ability and willingness to "follow a line of argument or to get the facts"', he is uttering an objective falsehood, he is lying. It is the typical thing he says to project the delusional image he has of himself and the fantasy world he inhabits; he even posted a very insulting comment here saying, among other things, that Christians (Christians, not person X or Y) could not follow elementary logic. He had the good sense to delete it, but given how google forums operate I had the misfortune to read it. He at any rate regularly repeats such stuff at other forums (e.g. Dangerous Idea). Combine this with a complete ignorance on just about everything, an abysmal stupidity, an utter incapability to reason his way out of a paper bag and a pathological case of Dunning-Kruger syndrome and it is not exactly surprising that people will respond, and respond harshly, even if it is a complete waste of time.

      Delete
    11. grodriguesJune 13, 2017 at 2:48 AM

      "When he says something like 'I have yet to encounter a theist here who displayed the ability and willingness to "follow a line of argument or to get the facts"', he is uttering an objective falsehood"
      --Interesting, please do tell your objective proof for your assertion.

      "(Christians, not person X or Y) could not follow elementary logic. He had the good sense to delete it,"
      --So, you are unable to reference this alleged evidence in support of your alleged objective assertion. How convenient for you to cite non-existent evidence.

      Your claim to an objective assertion is discredited already, but please do continue.

      " He at any rate regularly repeats such stuff at other forums (e.g. Dangerous Idea)."
      --Still no specifics, but please do continue.

      " Combine this with a complete ignorance on just about everything, an abysmal stupidity, an utter incapability to reason his way out of a paper bag "
      --Hyperbole is not an objective argument.

      "and a pathological case of Dunning-Kruger syndrome and it is not exactly surprising that people will respond, and respond harshly,"
      --Rationalization for the use of expletives and ad hominems is not an objective argument.

      Sorry grod, ironically, in this post you provided evidence for the very things you say I falsely claim.

      Delete
  27. Responding to Stardusty's use of "altruism" (even granting that it was facetious) Eduardo responds,

    "This ladies and gentlemen is what a insane person sound like. ..."

    There are some things we have learned if not from, then about how, the Stardusty kinds reason; and about their underlying suppositions.

    During our exchanges over his God-concept coherence critique, which he had based on the so-called four questions of Epicurus, we noted that he not only claimed an argument which was valid in its form; but that also, and while using the Christian's own developed analogical terminology for the attributes of God, he could offer an argument which was sound, as well as merely structurally valid.

    Virtually all who looked at the argument realized right off that this could not be the case. There was a definitional problem involved not only because the terms used in Christian theology to describe God are generally terms used analogically, but because even in the everyday a posteriori world of our experience, there's no agreement as to what "Good" can possibly connote between modern hedonists and traditional teleologists.

    It brings to mind J.S. Mill's remark to the effect that as far as he's concerned, when you use a term such as "good" with regard to God, it had better mean just what it is that Mill himself means when he uses it, in his everyday epicurean materialist inflected speech ...

    But the problem with this theory is highlighted the moment we do try and sort out what the core meaning of the term "good" is or should be, so it can then be employed univocally.

    We immediately notice the fact that the root secular meaning of "good" when used as a description of the good object as a "gathering" object, cannot be reconciled with the current meaning of "good" when it is used as an anthropocentric grunt of satisfaction by a utilitarian. But that is the only notion of "good" that a hedonic nihilist, or materialist can condone. When the hedonist-subject grunts its approval, under the (vulgar) "epicurean" theory, "the good" is directly manifest; and not a sign something more fundamental has been effected.

    "Good" then, under that scheme, obviously cannot be accepted as a term convertible with being; nor can it be thought of in terms of the gathering, or of ultimate fittedness or capacity.

    "Good" as in God's goodness, then, can only be redefined as benevolence; benevolence as kindly interest in the transitory pleasure of others; and pleasure, understood as the subject's shiver of satisfaction.

    The word "True", found in the scriptures and as used by Jesus in reference to Himself, is even more problematical.

    Whereas the Epicurean or Millsean arguments focus on "good" as benignity, and benignity as a friendly disposition to unconditionally ensure the moment by moment pleasures of the subject, the word "true" illustrates the very different different conceptual realm which these related attribute words occupy in Christian God-talk, versus hedonic materialism.

    You might be able to rig a refutation of God's goodness when substituting a modern hedonic materialist concept of felt pleasure for the Christian idea of "good", but you cannot get away with it by substituting "truth" as propositional value, in order to refute the statement that "I am the truth". The transition is too jolting not to be ignored.

    This idea of "True" has obviously quite another meaning, one indicative of a constant object of reference which is ultimately and juridically defining of existence.

    Now, if you don't accept that such a big concept can be defended even as an idea, then you will have to apply a differently in-filled meaning for "true" too, when it's used as a God attribute.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DNWJune 12, 2017 at 11:00 AM

      "Responding to Stardusty's use of "altruism" ...

      There are some things we have learned if not from, then about how, the Stardusty kinds reason; and about their underlying suppositions."
      --Those to whom altruism is directed often did not ask for it, do not want it, and vociferously reject it. I continue to extend it nevertheless.


      "There was a definitional problem involved not only because the terms used in Christian theology to describe God are generally terms used analogically, but because even in the everyday a posteriori world of our experience, there's no agreement as to what "Good" can possibly connote"
      --My conditional holds irrespective of any particular definition of evil. You mention "he had based on the so-called four questions of Epicurus" so presumably you are approaching that discussion of evil by considering good.


      ""Good" as in God's goodness, then, can only be redefined as benevolence; benevolence as kindly interest in the transitory pleasure of others;"
      --You may choose whichever petard you wish, my conditional will hoist you upon it in any case.

      If X is evil and
      god is omniscient and
      god is omnipotent and
      god is the original universal creator and
      ((we observe X) or (god is defined as doing X)) then
      god is evil

      Delete
    2. "You may choose whichever petard you wish, my conditional will hoist you upon it in any case."

      Your pert hanky-waving aside, your conditional hoists no one and merely spins pointlessly unless your assumptions are granted; as Mill realized long before you.

      In order to make your argument "sound", you must do what Mill did and stipulate that, "I will call no being good, who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow-creatures ..."

      "Fellow-creatures" ... "Fellows" ... get that? Yeah, so that is kind of where we, or I at least, left off when you took umbrage at my referring to empty formalism ... because, ultimately, "suffering", or something along those lines.

      Yes, all you have to do is to, rule out of court the analogical language and understandings which have since the early days of the scriptures been recognized as applying to the God concept: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD."


      Yeah though, your argument works just fine in a universe featuring a god of pantheistic emanations, or in a mechanical reality sporting a "creative" Olympian Zeus made of the same ultimate stuff as his creation, and constrained by the same laws of time and motion which constitute the sensible world. Nice work.

      You might as well just post your argument form up in pure content free and formally empty symbols. In fact, why don't you do that?

      Oh yeah ... "suffering".



      Delete
    3. Muh Suffering...

      Muh Consensus...

      lol

      Delete
    4. EduardoJune 13, 2017 at 9:50 AM

      Muh Suffering...

      Muh Consensus...

      lol



      Sometimes I wonder what kind of reasoning process folks go through before adjusting the wheels and then pulling the lever on their calculators.

      A few years ago I was arguing with a fellow who calculated that the chance of your being victimized by your own handgun was something like 25%.

      He came to this conclusion by toting up the number of incidents involving handguns in the United States each year, and then adding up the incidents for 50 years [his assumed handgun life expectancy] and distributing the sum of incidents across the field of all handguns owned.

      The idea that most of these incidents were the product of a distinct category of repeat subcultural offenders, using the same artifacts again and again, apparently escaped his notice, or was thought to be unimportant.

      I don't recall whether he bothered to multiply the number of guns owned yearly in the same year by year manner he accumulated "incidents" or not.

      But it was all good either way.

      Because, you know, "I will call no being good, who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow-creatures" Or something.


      Delete
    5. DNWJune 13, 2017 at 9:23 AM

      " applying to the God concept: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.""
      --You seem to be asserting some form of divine command theory.

      So, just for you, I will provide another conditional:

      If all god commands is good and
      god is omniscient and
      god is omnipotent and
      god is the original universal creator
      then
      evil does not exist

      Delete
    6. "I will provide another conditional:

      If all god commands is good and ..."


      What does "good" mean when you use the term?

      Oh , yeah ...

      "I will call no being good, who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow-creatures" Or something.

      Delete
    7. DNWJune 14, 2017 at 7:53 AM

      "What does "good" mean when you use the term?"
      --Irrelevant. By any particular definition of good the conditional statement holds.

      I will leave it to the Christian to define her own meaning of "good", then hoist her on her own petard if she also claims the further traits of god and the existence of evil, since at that point her combined set of assertions becomes incoherent.

      Delete
  28. Eduardo to Stardusty:

    " Sorry, but I don't remember counting on you to show me anything ..."

    Here is something he and several others of the type have shown us. When asked about the objective and morally binding bases of ethical behavior from their perspective, they have shrugged the question off, as they well might: being the kind who insist that an ought cannot be derived from an is, in any event.

    But Lo! This does not entail that they do not have "reasons" for behaving "morally",we are informed. Even if there is no transcendental or teleological standard, they do! Why? How?

    Because "Evolution™" and because "I am not a sociopath!"

    Thus we witness how "reasons" are redefined as motivations, and motivations are defined as impulses which are located in certain specific manifestations (i.e., a 'person') of a non-directional process of environmental filtering. An outcome, which is in principle in aid of no end, and subject to equally valid change for any or no reason at all.

    Therefore, they do what they do because they are incidentally "programmed"/(i.e. exist as the locally filtered remainder) to feel like it; and they feel like it for the same reason they have brown or blue eyes, or are left or right handed or are sociopaths or altruists or any other value neutral output.

    And so if you asked Stardusty if there is really anything objective to the ideas of right or wrong or good and evil; or if there is an objective right to life, or to be not killed at whim by someone more powerful, he would have to answer "No; unless you are taking 'objective' to mean 'existing paperwork' somewhere ".


    But they almost always go on to say in effect, " 'I' still feel like talking that way, all the same; even though there is not really any coherent moral "I" there either."

    The conclusion? There's nothing really wrong in what a sociopath does, it's just not the Stardusty way ... until it is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DNWJune 12, 2017 at 1:10 PM

      "Eduardo to Stardusty:

      " Sorry, but I don't remember counting on you to show me anything ..."

      Here is something he and several others of the type have shown us. When asked about the objective and morally binding bases of ethical behavior from their perspective, they have shrugged the question off,"
      --No, I have very specific answers to such questions.

      " as they well might: being the kind who insist that an ought cannot be derived from an is, "
      --There is no need to derive a logical ought from a logical is. Our sense of ought is an emotion, a feeling, a brain process, which need be nothing more than a process of "is".

      "motivations are defined as impulses which are located in certain specific manifestations (i.e., a 'person') of a non-directional process of environmental filtering. An outcome, which is in principle in aid of no end, and subject to equally valid change for any or no reason at all."
      --You were doing kind of OK until that last bit. "No reason at all"? No, that would not be an assertion I would make about human behavior.

      "Therefore, they do what they do because they are incidentally "programmed"/(i.e. exist as the locally filtered remainder) to feel like it; and they feel like it for the same reason they have brown or blue eyes, or are left or right handed or are sociopaths or altruists or any other value neutral output."
      --Ok, you are back to doing pretty much OK.

      "And so if you asked Stardusty if there is really anything objective to the ideas of right or wrong or good and evil; or if there is an objective right to life, or to be not killed at whim by someone more powerful, he would have to answer "No; unless you are taking 'objective' to mean 'existing paperwork' somewhere "."
      --Ok, not bad, but I don't quite follow the paperwork thing. Maybe you are referring to human conventions, in which case, yes, you've about got it.

      "The conclusion? There's nothing really wrong in what a sociopath does, "
      --If by "really" you mean provably objective in the sense of being demonstrably absolutely true, then yes, you are accurate.

      Does that prospect bother you in some way? It just does not worry me. Sociopaths are functionally controlled by conventions of broad mutual agreement. Besides, even if one could somehow prove the objective wrong of their actions I don't think it likely to have a practical effect on behavior, since a sociopath is unlikely to be swayed by a sound logical argument against her antisocial behavior.

      Delete
  29. "(5) some other illogical option?"
    --God only knows. God works in mysterious ways, through the Bishop of Rome, as the Vicarious Christ. Who are you to question the plan of the almighty?


    Yes, I knew you would select one of the illogical options. Leave it to you, though, to choose an explicitly illogical option, instead of one that is illogical but not explicitly so.

    This was a test of the emergency broadcast system. It succeeded: it showed the rest of the people here that Stars-in-his-eyes and Dust-in-his-head is NOT HERE TO MAKE ANY SENSE, he is here to stir up trouble and prevent intelligent discourse. He doesn't care if he says illogical things, he will throw out idiotic stuff for the fun of it.

    So: do not feed the troll. Got it?

    ReplyDelete
  30. "Does that prospect bother you in some way?"

    Not at all. Just as long as we are all on the same page. I too find it annoying when the weak, or victims of this or that whine about their treatment or of the indifference of others as if they are the real recipients of some objective injustice, social or otherwise. The sooner narrow shouldered men and neurotic women realize they have no right to life or solidarity, the sooner the world will be, if not a "better", then at least a truer place.

    "It just does not worry me. Sociopaths are functionally controlled by conventions of broad mutual agreement.

    Sure, and change the convention, change the definition. Once people broadly realize that they were sold a bill of goods when those pleading for compassionate treatment invoked natural rights and objective duty, they will be better off. Unless you are wrong of course, and there is a God. In which case they are likely to join you in Hell ... one that is permanent.


    "Besides, even if one could somehow prove the objective wrong of their actions I don't think it likely to have a practical effect on behavior, since a sociopath is unlikely to be swayed by a sound logical argument against her antisocial behavior."


    One mans "sociopath" is another man's street sweeper, or social engineer, right?

    And of course bracketing quotes must now be self-consciously used around the term "sociopath" since the very concept of pathology is dependent upon a contrasting concept, or cluster of concepts, which have been already been rejected by nominalists as sound and reflecting reality: i.e., teleology; homeostatis; proper ordering, and the like.

    So, just as long as we are all on the same page! See you on the battlefield ... if all goes well. LOL


    ReplyDelete
  31. Stardusty,

    We’ve met briefly online before, but I’m sure you don’t remember me. I’m ashamed to say I was somewhat dismissive of you in the past, but watching your performance now I’ve finally recognized your genius. I’ve never seen so much hoisting on so many petards!

    I have seen other critics show up here with as much confidence as you, but then allow the theists to tie them up with technicalities and mumbo jumbo (like when Eduardo pointed out that ‘incomprehensible’ has a number of possible meanings, on only one of which would your argument work, to take just one example); whereas you just plow right through such silly quibbles.

    Perhaps most astonishing of all was when you demonstrated an understanding of Catholic doctrine greater than the learned Catholics here; indeed, greater than the Catechism of the Catholic Church! You must be vastly learned if your knowledge extends to such trivia.

    Really, I could go on and on citing instances of similar brilliance, but I had better stop myself now.

    I would, however, like to take this opportunity to question one of the greatest intellects of the ages on something I’ve been pondering for a while. You see, I’ve encountered people, usually of slightly above average intelligence, who seem to have become so enamored of the idea of being a great intellectual that they become lost in a fantasy world in which they take on that role, effortlessly triumphing in argument over the lesser beings opposed to them. My theory is that it becomes such an essential part of their identity that they develop deep psychological defenses against the notion that they could be wrong about anything important. This will be manifest to our intellectual’s interlocutors by his tendency to translate their arguments, in his own mind, into something he is able to easily deal with, and which he thinks typical of the sort of people he is arguing with; but of course he himself will not be aware he is doing this. The fact that no one else seems to be impressed by his brilliant arguments can be easily explained by their stupidity or unwillingness to face the truth. Meanwhile the truth of the matter – that he is making an utter buffoon of himself – will never cross his mind.

    Actually, I seem to recall Feser having written about this sort of thing in the past, but you have ANNIHILATED all of his arguments, so I won’t waste my time looking up what he had to say.

    So, Dustmaster: do you think this ever happens?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Meh, I still reckon he's got nothing on Santi. And Don't could give him a run for his money.

      Delete
    2. Well said. I've also seen it put this way:

      Everyone wants to think himself smarter than the average bear. This leads to assuming others are dumber than you are. If you are actually smart, that leads thinking others are still pretty smart. If you're average, it still just means you think others somewhat below average; still not that far off. But if you are truly stupid, it means you MUST assume others are truly dithering idiots.

      Sort of a corollary of Dunning-Kruger. Another way to look at it is as the King of Pointland come to life.

      Delete
    3. I like you Gottfried. You are trouble.

      Delete
    4. Gottfried June 13, 2017 at 8:20 AM

      Stardusty,

      " I’ve finally recognized your genius. "
      --How gratifying to be recognized in my own time.

      " mumbo jumbo (like when Eduardo pointed out that ‘incomprehensible’ has a number of possible meanings,"
      --That is Feser's word and Feser's argument. If you don't agree I suggest you read the link to his full post I provided and voice your concerns to him.

      " the truth of the matter – that he is making an utter buffoon of himself "
      --Did you have a valid argument to make? All I see here is ad hominem.

      "So, Dustmaster: do you think this ever happens?"
      --I avoid internet psychoanalysis. Did you have any specific rational arguments of your own to present?

      Delete
    5. Voice my concerns to Feser? What, suggest he only uses words so free from any ambiguity that they can never be twisted by foolish or dishonest people? Since I doubt that's possible, I think I'll continue to put the blame on those who willfully misunderstand him.

      Do I have any arguments of my own to present? Why would I bother, they would never reach you anyway. I've tried it before. Arguing with you is as productive as flushing money down a toilet. I'll stick to mockery, if I bother with you at all. Go ahead and chalk it up as another victory.

      Delete
    6. George LeSauvage,

      Yes, people would do well to remember why Socrates was called the wisest man in Athens.

      Anon,

      He may not be the equal of Santi, but he is one of very few I would put in the same category. I actually find his cartoonish arrogance amusing in small doses, but his comments tend to multiply like a noxious weed.

      Delete
    7. GottfriedJune 14, 2017 at 6:03 AM

      "Voice my concerns to Feser?"
      --Yes, since he stated clearly that the Thomistic god is "incomprehensible", and you seem to disagree.

      Others here have made specious comparisons to garbled messages, foreign languages, and the like. Feser makes clear in explanatory text that the inability of humans to comprehend the Thomistic god is not due to transmission media defects or a need for language translation, rather, it is the inherent shortcoming of the ability for humans to understand the Thomistic god that makes god "incomprehensible".

      Feser thus disputes, even dismisses, the charge of "unintelligible" made by Craig. Feser acknowledges that if god lacked all essence then god would be intrinsically unintelligible because there would then be nothing about god to be understood, even by a hypothetical being of unlimited powers of comprehension.

      Where in all of that have I supposedly "twisted" Feser's use of the word "incomprehensible"?

      Functionally, however, in terms of making sense of things, all three contentions are equivalent.

      That which is unintelligible does not make sense.
      That which is incomprehensible does not make sense.
      That which is incoherent does not make sense.

      By Craig, or by Feser, or by me, the Thomistic god does not make sense.

      Thus, all arguments for the Thomistic god are doomed to fail. It is impossible to reason your way to something that does not make sense.

      If a thing makes sense then we can express sensible reasons for that thing. If a thing does not make sense we cannot express sensible reasons for that thing.

      If we could express sensible reasons for the Thomistic god, if we could construct a valid and sound logical argument for the Thomistic god then it would no longer be "incomprehensible", but it is, by Feser's own words.

      Found here:
      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2016/04/craig-on-divine-simplicity-and-theistic.html?m=1

      Delete
    8. Yeah read the words see if they support the liar...

      Delete
    9. "Do I have any arguments of my own to present? Why would I bother, they would never reach you anyway. I've tried it before. Arguing with you is as productive as flushing money down a toilet."


      Well, yeah. The guy could have simply put up a modus tollens to the effect that,

      If God exists then the world is free of all evil
      The world is not free of all evil
      Therefore God does not exist.

      But then the critical questions regarding the content of the terms would become even more obvious than they already are.

      And instead of "proving" that there is no God, he would be left where Mill was, with an argument which, if you accepted his (Mill's) terminology, would merely indicate that the referent term "God", was in some sense not omnipotent.

      The usually suppressed premiss which actually does all the work is that, if God (as Christians use the term) is "good" then it is necessarily inconsistent with the concept of a "good" God that "evil" should manifest anywhere, in any circumstance, at any time. (I'm leaving freedom as a "value" out of this for a moment as Stardusty's stipulation regarding it will be covered by implication in my last paragraphs)

      But as Stardusty himself realizes, this flimsy construction can be replaced with a proposition wherein it is shown that evil, rather than "God" does not actually exist.

      Does this rather Neoplatonic vision of "evil" strike him as satisfactory?

      No. Because, "suffering" and "altruism".

      We however do see the real motive force behind Stardusty's arguments in the positive assertions which occasionally pop up. For, when he assumes that no good God could by definition allow any resistance to His will, or allow anything to be expressed but a mechanical outpouring of cosmic bliss, then we see that there is a kind of ultra monism already at work shaping his "arguments": wherein all-power is defined as equivalent in meaning to all-controlling. Withholding is not allowed of a "good" God in Stardusty's paradigm ... not for the sake of freedom, not for the sake of God's sovereignty or for effecting purposes; and, no compensation nets "evil" out in the final balance sheet

      But these arguments of his are not really intended to prove anything this way or that about the existence of "God", but they are meant instead to convict all reality of intrinsically being a mechanically irresistible and pointlessness process.

      The gibberish about suffering, or the unsupportable insinuation that if God allows "suffering" or an expression of resistance to His will, such allowance is necessarily an expression of God's malevolence, are just little emotive propositional smoke bombs Stardusty sets off to add to his fun.

      Stardusty's God arguments are really just an expression of a nihilist's joy in spreading the message of nothingness.

      The only thing crazier than that, is the waste of time setting up truth tables in order to re-plow ground which has been repeatedly harrowed by many generations of men before us.

      Delete
    10. DNWJune 15, 2017 at 8:14 AM

      " The guy could have simply put up a modus tollens to the effect that,

      If God exists then the world is free of all evil
      The world is not free of all evil
      Therefore God does not exist."
      --Strawman. You obviously cannot counter the actual conditionals I actually stated.

      Delete
    11. For, when he assumes that no good God could by definition allow any resistance to His will, or allow anything to be expressed but a mechanical outpouring of cosmic bliss, then we see that there is a kind of ultra monism already at work shaping his "arguments": wherein all-power is defined as equivalent in meaning to all-controlling. Withholding is not allowed of a "good" God in Stardusty's paradigm ... not for the sake of freedom, not for the sake of God's sovereignty or for effecting purposes; and, no compensation nets "evil" out in the final balance sheet

      Yes. I wonder how often those who like to present the argument from the existence of evil as an unanswerable refutation of theism ever really consider what a world without evil would look like. There could be no courage, or striving, or endurance, or honor, or self-sacrifice. No justice, or mercy, or compassion. No Homer, or Dante, or Shakespeare. Or Michelangelo, or Beethoven, or much meaningful art at all, I would think.

      Of course, one could, I suppose, envision an eternity of pleasant sensory stimulation, and cute furry animals, and perfect equality. And maybe most people currently living would see that as a decent trade-off.

      Delete
    12. @Gottfried:

      "I wonder how often those who like to present the argument from the existence of evil as an unanswerable refutation of theism ever really consider what a world without evil would look like. There could be no courage, or striving, or endurance, or honor, or self-sacrifice. No justice, or mercy, or compassion. No Homer, or Dante, or Shakespeare. Or Michelangelo, or Beethoven, or much meaningful art at all, I would think."

      And nor would exist those that "like to present the argument from the existence of evil as an unanswerable refutation of theism".

      Delete
  32. "Dustmaster" . (snigger)

    Too funny.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was nice of him to choose a name for which the potential comic variations are unlimited.

      Delete
    2. Intellectually and morally he is like the young Earth creationist who thinks "The Second Law of Thermodynamics renders evolution impossible" is a valid argument against Evolution only Stargayboy is twice as stupid.

      I read his profile & the poor boob thinks "the argument from motion" has something to do with Newton.

      Yeh....I know right!

      He is just to gay to function. I know Dr. Feser, God love him, wants to keep discussion high ended and I respect that.

      But boobs like Starhomo Perez don't want high ended discussion. They are bored sophists(at best or maybe God forbid they really are this stupid) & the only response you can give them if any is mockery.

      Please remember when we call him "gay" we don't mean "gay" in the sexy way of milo yiannopoulos but in the creepy way of Perez Hilton.

      Delete
  33. Honestly, papal infallibility itself is apparently an error (I know I know...not everything the pope says is infallible according to the teaching)...but it seems to be near impossible to find this teaching (and the teaching of papal supremacy) in the early church of the first millenium. Plus, Francis's papacy seems to be hellbent on disproving it through Amoris Laetitia

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    1. Ah something more diverting. I thought I would be bored.

      >but it seems to be near impossible to find this teaching (and the teaching of papal supremacy) in the early church of the first millenium.

      You sure about that?

      https://www.catholic.com/tract/the-authority-of-the-pope-part-i

      https://www.catholic.com/tract/the-authority-of-the-pope-part-ii

      "The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it" -Pope St Damasus 382AD

      Now feel free to move the goalposts.

      >Plus, Francis's papacy seems to be hellbent on disproving it through Amoris Laetitia.

      You just admitted not everything the Pope says is infallible. What makes you think Amoris is meant to be infallible and what does is literally say that is too be taken to be infallible that contradicts what was previous taught infallibly?

      (At which point you will be forced to quote the actual text)

      Feel free to move the goal posts some more.

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    2. > "The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it" -Pope St Damasus 382AD

      This was true in the 4th to 6th century, when Rome, was the only apostolic see that did not embrace any heresy. But this did not hold true when Honorius was the pope.

      Admitted, Rome had some primacy over the bishops as shown by those quotes in the links (it can even be argued...over the patriarchs of the apostolic sees of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople)...but Rome did not have the Supremacy or even the Papal Infallibility of Vatican 1.

      Consider what St Augustine said about the pope holding supreme power over councils:

      " Well, let us suppose that those bishops who decided the case at Rome were not good judges; there still remained a plenary Council of the universal Church, in which these judges themselves might be put on their defence; so that, if they were convicted of mistake, their decisions might be reversed. "- Letter 43:7

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