Friday, June 9, 2017

Five Proofs is coming


Five Proofs of the Existence of God will be out this Fall.  You can pre-order at the Ignatius Press website and at Amazon.  Here’s the book jacket description:

Five Proofs of the Existence of God provides a detailed, updated exposition and defense of five of the historically most important (but in recent years largely neglected) philosophical proofs of God's existence: the Aristotelian proof, the Neo-Platonic proof, the Augustinian proof, the Thomistic proof, and the Rationalist proof.

This book also offers a detailed treatment of each of the key divine attributes -- unity, simplicity, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, and so forth -- showing that they must be possessed by the God whose existence is demonstrated by the proofs. Finally, it answers at length all of the objections that have been leveled against these proofs.

This book offers as ambitious and complete a defense of traditional natural theology as is currently in print. Its aim is to vindicate the view of the greatest philosophers of the past -- thinkers like Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, Leibniz, and many others -- that the existence of God can be established with certainty by way of purely rational arguments. It thereby serves as a refutation both of atheism and of the fideism which gives aid and comfort to atheism.

More information here.  Some endorsements:

“A watershed book… Feser has completely severed the intellectual legs upon which modern atheism had hoped to stand.”  Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

“Edward Feser is widely recognized as a top scholar in the history of philosophy in general, and in Thomistic and Aristotelian philosophy in particular… Feser admirably achieves his goal, and Five Proofs of the Existence of God is a must read for anyone interested in natural theology.  I happily and highly recommend it.”  J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University 

“Yet another fine book by Edward Feser… Feser replies to (literally) all of the objections and shows convincingly how the most popular objections (the kind one hears in Introduction to Philosophy courses) are very often completely beside the point and, even when they’re not, are ‘staggeringly feeble and overrated’… Five Proofs of the Existence of God puts the lie to the common assumption among professional philosophers that natural theology was done in forever by the likes of Hume and Kant, never to rise again.”  Alfred J. Freddoso, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame

“Refutes with devastating effect the standard objections to theistic proofs, from David Hume to the New Atheists.  Feser draws on the best from both scholastic and modern analytic philosophy, including persuasive defenses of the real distinction in creatures between essence and existence, the absolute simplicity of God, and the continued importance of causation in a relativistic and quantum-mechanical world.” Robert C. Koons, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin

“A powerful and important book... The concluding chapter, where Feser replies to possible objections to his arguments, is a gem; it alone is worth the price of this excellent work.”  Stephen T. Davis, Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy, Claremont McKenna College

57 comments:

  1. Looking forward to it! Can I expect it to address Kantian objections more so than in your other works? (Aquinas briefly discussed him, but you've --perhaps rightly-- focused most of your effort on Hume.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Everyone please go to the Amazon page and start mashing that "I'd like to read this book on Kindle" link in the bottom right. That is, if you would like to read it on Kindle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Neo-Scholastic Essays was supposed to be on ebook too, and then wasn't.

      Delete
    2. Just did! (I would readily buy a paperback if it weren't the case that I have too little shelf space.)

      Delete
    3. This'll be a book you make space on your shelves for ;-)

      Delete
    4. Not sure how anybody can read off a Kindle!

      Delete
  3. One of the things that pushed me from a very shakey theist when I first started reading our host here to being a firm believer was the cumulative effect of the rejection of materialism by Nagel, Russell, Ayer, as well as the reductios of materialism offered by its advocates like Quine, Dennett, the Churchlands and Rosenberg. The separate blog posts on these guys were interesting, but it was only once the arguments of all these people were aggregated that I realized just how serious the problems with materialism were. It isn't just one or two guys with a few clever arguments.

    Of course, you need further argument to positively establish the existence of God, but it does get you to the existence of a wholly immaterial aspect of reality and perhaps the priority of the immaterial over the material, which set the stage for arguments for God.

    Will any of this be in the book? The destruction of materialism as a viable option would seem to be part of the way we establish the existence of God.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think that would be enough. I think what needs to be destroyed is the idea that the world can exist as a matter of brute fact. As long as this can't be ruled out completely, someone can pretty much always question the existence of God as cause of the world.

      As far as I know Feser has addressed believing the world exists as a matter of brute fact, but if I remember, his point was different. He was pointing out that if you believe it, it casts doubt on almost everything else you could possibly know for certain.

      I could be wrong, but I've never seen someone effectively refute the idea. I've only seen people show how it raises serious conflicts with other beliefs.

      Delete
    2. Actually, Ed has made the argument that a brute fact worldview is incoherent because it undermines it's own justification of why the universe is a brute fact or why we should even think there are.

      Delete
    3. Brute fact views are straightforwardly incoherent *as accounts*. They amount to nothing more than a stipulative and stubborn rejection of explanation altogether.

      Delete
    4. @ Thursday,

      I realized just how serious the problems with materialism were

      I agree. And I would add the stronger “how serious the problems with naturalism are”. Naturalism allows for non-material substances but has them all follow mechanical principles. In other words according to naturalism the metaphysically fundamental nature of reality is mechanical.

      I have consistently found that both when the theist confronts her own doubts, or when she discusses with atheists, focusing on the problems of naturalism is much more effective than focusing on the proofs for theism. Intellectually speaking. As long as nobody comes up with a non-theistic non-naturalistic metaphysics, arguing against naturalism is usually much more effective than arguing for theism.

      Delete
  4. BTW, the book is not yet available for pre-order in Canada or elsewhere outside the U.S.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Just pre ordered it.

    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 and 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
  6. Just to clarify, once the books on capital punishment and the existence of God are published, the next project is a book on the philosophy of nature?

    Then perhaps a book on sexual morality?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or perhaps a book on social science more generally, with a Thomistic assessment of methodological individualism? :)

      Delete
    2. Feser has sometimes talked about future projects. I wasn't making random suggestions.

      Delete
    3. The first three? Yes, he's mentioned them quite a lot recently. If he's mentioned a book on sexual morality, I haven't seen the post.

      Delete
  7. Hey Prof Feser, will Five Proofs and your latest book on capital punishment be available on the e-book format on the Kindle webstore? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  8. It was reading Ronald Knox's summary version, in 1994, of the five proofs in his "The Belief of Catholics" that enabled me to cease being a Reformed 'presuppositionalist' and become a Catholic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was Feser for me. Was studying Dooyeweerd and Kuyper a few years ago, then thought, "Why don't I READ these Scholastics before I give up on them?" Feser's book was the first one I came across. Dense, but worth it.

      BTW, couldn't we use the transcendentals to argue for a Thomistic presuppositionalism?

      Delete
    2. https://jgfriesen.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/marlet.pdf is an interesting read regarding the relationship between Dooyeweerd's thought and 20th century Catholic theology. I am somewhat skeptical of the idea of a Thomistic pressupositionalism. Even though it isn't about exactly the same topic, Etienne Gilson's book "Thomist Realism and the Critique of Knowledge" is a good critique of attempts to form a synthesis between Thomistic philosophy and post-scholastic thought.

      Delete
    3. Read that a while back after discovering Friesen's website.

      Same, though I think there's an interesting dialogue to be had between the scholastic and Reformed philosophical traditions.

      That book has been on my to-read list for quite a while now. Perhaps I should look into getting a copy.

      Delete
  9. Fantastic! Thank you Dr Feser.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hello Dr.Feser

    Congratulations on the new book, I just wanted to know a little about your forthcoming work on act/potency and block universe,This in a sense is the only serious doubt I have about the argument, so glad to see the issue getting addressed in print by you.
    Can you please kindly, just briefly outline what sort of theses you are going to defend? in particular do you argue that Block view is incoherent on grounds relating to reality of act/potency or do you argue that Block word poses no threat to act/potency distinction?

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey Dr. Feser it looks like William Lane Craig has uploaded a new video criticizing the Thomist conception of God. I, and others on the forum, would love for you to respond.

    https://youtu.be/_GVhDz1jUQI

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's an old video he has already responded too

      Delete
    2. RomanJoe,

      Ed's reply is here:

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.jp/2016/04/craig-on-divine-simplicity-and-theistic.html

      Delete
    3. Thanks for the reminder, Vince. Yes,I read it last year, but it didn't hurt to read it again (and listen to Craig's video).

      An interesting sidelight: the verdict of heresy against Biddle, was made in Gloucester. (And was not the last such against him.) Note that Gloucester was a Puritan stronghold, which the Cavaliers were unable to take. (They won a battle but not by enough to carry on the siege.)

      This was not, as some might suspect, some crypto-Roman bunch of Caroline high churchmen. It was Calvinists who rejected "God is a person."

      What is it that got into today's Protestants here? It's not all of them, I admit. But it does look like polytheism in disguise.

      Delete
    4. Vincent TorleyJune 11, 2017 at 6:52 AM
      RomanJoe,
      Ed's reply is here:
      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.jp/2016/04/craig-on-divine-simplicity-and-theistic.html

      --Indeed. While Craig considers the Thomistic god "unintelligible" Feser considers the Thomistic god "incomprehensible" because "the incomprehensibility here derives, ... from the limitations on our finite intellects. "

      So, Feser contends that human intellect is too limited to comprehend the Thomistic god.

      Yet Aquinas is said to have not just 1 but 5 "proofs" of the existence of god! (Yes, I realize the 5 proofs by Aquinas are not to be confused with the 5 proofs covered by Feser, but there is inextricable overlap, since "The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion." )

      If an argument is valid, and the premises are true then it is sound, and thus comprehensible.

      Any claim that the First Way is sound yet the Thomistic god is incomprehensible is self contradictory.

      Delete
  12. Congratulations Dr. Feser! This sounds tremendous. I remember meeting you two years ago at Princeton when you hinted about this book. I cannot wait to see the fruit of your labor. Come back to Princeton to give a talk and I'll be there!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Very excited for this! The wait has gone by quite fast. I predict this book will be monumental.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Reading his 'By Man shall his blood be shed' now and will effortlessly transition to 'Five Proofs'. What a magnificent summer this is turning out to be.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Feser replies to (literally) all of the objections

    I wonder about that.

    What is it we know to go on in metaphysics? First we have the data themselves, namely the whole of the common human condition, both quantitative and qualitative. And secondly we have some assumptions, both epistemological and metaphysical, which seem to be self-evident to us. Assumptions such as, say, the validity of classical logic or of Occam’s razor, or the claim that there is only one dimension of time or that an object cannot exist in two places at once.

    Now the atheist has a worldview which accounts for all the data, namely some materialist account based on the physical sciences plus some supervenience theory which grounds our qualitative experiences to physical states of the human brain. I say this worldview accounts for all the data in the sense no contradiction is known between such a worldview and the data. Therefore, as far as the actual data goes this atheistic worldview is possibly true. There is a possible world which is atheistic and in which all the data of the human condition obtain.

    Suppose now the atheist confronts a formally valid proof for God. The atheist will look to find where some assumption of that proof, epistemological or metaphysical, contradicts her atheistic worldview and will proceed to deny it, perhaps moved to that denial by the very proof encountered. The theist will then argue that that assumption is self-evident, or required by reason, or something along those lines – but the atheist will point out that many other such assumptions have been proven wrong in the past, for example the flatness of physical space, or the possibility of concurrency of physical events, or the impossibility of an object being in many places at once, or the non-existence of different infinities, or the non-existence of uncaused events, and so on. At this point I think fruitful discussion stops for the simple reason that there is no common ground to proceed.

    If the above picture is precise then what follows? Well it follows that at some point the human condition is such that the educated person must make a *personal choice* about which metaphysical worldview is the more reasonable one. Being a theist and thus experiencing life from the theistic perspective I find the reasonableness of theism overwhelmingly greater than that of atheism. But perhaps the atheist, experiencing life as an atheist, will beg to differ. The world, as John Hick observed, seems to be religiously ambiguous.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree 100% with that. Unless... There is knowledge that exist prior to our experience somehow.

      Delete
    2. The theist will then argue that that assumption is self-evident, or required by reason, or something along those lines

      The theist will then argue that the science that the atheist is relying on also makes the same assumptions that the theist is appealing to for his arguments.

      Delete
    3. I get the feeling our friend hasn't actually read Feser. Self evident assumptions should put you on alert.

      Many of the supposedly false "assumptions" are probably themselves false examples.

      Delete
    4. You see Dianelos is trying to say that eventually you come to a point where you can no longer argue for a group of principles. Is like there is this layer #0 that no longer is based on other layers.

      Like a pyramid. Of course in real pyramid you have the ground, but the idea is that layer #X can only be justified by layer #(X-1), but it is not turtles all the way down.

      Now personally I do believe there comes a time where you can no longer argue for fundamental stuff. So the #0 could be self-evident, but what if being self-evident differs from people to people?

      Delete
    5. @ Eduardo,

      Unless... There is knowledge that exist prior to our experience somehow.

      All knowledge forms part of experience. If we didn’t experience it how would we know about it?

      Now philosophers sometimes speak of “a priori knowledge”, “basic knowledge”, and so on – and posit special epistemic properties for such kinds. It is still the case that such knowledge is part of our experience of life. And it is still the case that the atheist can describe how her worldview explains the mechanisms that would produce human brains on which such experiences supervene. So when the theist argues “It’s absurd to deny this principle” the atheist will answer “Let me explain on purely mechanical grounds how it came about that our brain makes us feel this way.” In a sense the atheist has an universal defeater for any principle that contradicts her worldview.

      Delete
    6. @ Thursday,

      The theist will then argue that the science that the atheist is relying on also makes the same assumptions that the theist is appealing to for his arguments.

      Yes, interesting. I suppose the atheist cannot deny those principles she herself used to build her worldview. But what principles are these? Strictly speaking the physical sciences only catalog physical phenomena (namely the quantitative part of the data available to us) and discover mathematical patterns present in them. The only necessary principles here are mathematics (which entails classical logic). The materialistic interpretation of scientific knowledge, that is the description of a material world which would produce said physical phenomena to be experienced in our brain, do not require any assumptions except, again, the validity of mathematics. Does there exist an argument for theism that relies only on the data and no other principle apart from the validity of mathematics? It’s hard to see how, but here’s an intriguing possibility:

      We know that physical phenomena are mathematically ordered, and the atheist uses that knowledge to describe a reality which is also mathematically (and thus mechanically) ordered. Now the mechanisms required for evolution of intelligent brains capable of discovering such order are well understood, and entail indeed a mathematically ordered world. In other words among all possible worlds only in those appropriately ordered will brains evolve intelligent enough for discovering and exploiting that order (like we do). Thanks to science though we know that the mathematical order present in phenomena is of a particularly sophisticated kind. The mechanism of evolution does not require material reality to be ordered according to such sophisticated math. Therefore among all the possible atheistic worlds in which intelligent brains will evolve the vast majority is based on simple math. This deep fact about the world (or more precisely about the human condition) is thus impossible to explain on atheism. It looks like at the deepest possible level of physical reality the message is written “designed by a mathematician”.

      Delete
    7. Lurking predatorJune 12, 2017 at 2:34 PM

      We know that physical phenomena are mathematically ordered, and the atheist uses that knowledge to describe a reality which is also mathematically (and thus mechanically) ordered.

      Oh, please. We 'know' this, that mathematically ordered implies mechanically ordered, and still "The only necessary principles here are mathematics "?

      Now the mechanisms required for evolution of intelligent brains capable of discovering such order are well understood,

      Cough, cough.. retch. Bleaaaggghhh. Well underSTOOD? Is he insane? There are 6 competing theories of human intelligence / consciousness, which are incompatible. ALL of them involve a huge amount of hand waving in the middle. None of them have a remotely "complete" account of how evolution achieves brains like ours. This takes any liberal claptrap that strikes his fancy and treats it as not only reasonable, but beyond debate. Not a clear thought in that muzzy head of his.

      You really should not feed him.

      Delete
  16. "Yet another fine book by Edward Feser… Feser replies to (literally) all of the objections and shows convincingly how the most popular objections (the kind one hears in Introduction to Philosophy courses) are very often completely beside the point and, even when they’re not, are ‘staggeringly feeble and overrated'."

    He achieves this hugely ambitious task in 320 pages? I am curious how detailed he can possibly be to all the arguments of the atheists while at the same time putting forward his arguments in favor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because the popular objections are almost invariably either based on misconceptions or just plain bad. A good objection might take fifty pages or more to adequately discuss - many of these bad ones take at most two.

      Delete
    2. I think Anonymous (II) is correct. Many atheists take for granted there are great refutations to theism. Unfortunately there is very often an ignorance of their own philosophical assumptions, so their arguments are doomed from the get go. A common problem is the fact atheists often don't even know that they hold a specific (or require a specific) philosophical foundation, such as scientism. Universal skepticism is also extremely problematic if one wishes to argue any position at all because it is just a deeply flawed epistemological beginning for any rational pursuit of knowledge.

      Delete
    3. Okay, if the atheist arguments really are so simplistic as you suggest, do we really need the 6,953th book "debunking" them?

      Delete
    4. ^Yes, it's important that people know that atheistic arguments are not as great as they seem to be.

      Delete
    5. A lot of books refuting atheist arguments contain some pretty good arguments, but are a bit slapdash, because most of the people writing them don't have an academic background in philosophy or just aren't as thorough as Feser.

      Delete
    6. Nobody said that there aren't objections worth considering at length. But many of them at worth considering in detail, or at all. Dr. Feser presumably focuses on the most important objections.

      Delete
    7. Also, keep in mind that many objections can be classed by underlying assumptions. By addressing those, you can handle a number of strictly distinct arguments in a relatively few pages. Just as some arguments against the Ontological Argument address only one or a few versions, while others are more general. (And I am here thinking of real philosophical objections, not the gnus.)

      Delete
    8. AnonymousJune 11, 2017 at 10:51 PM

      "Yet another fine book by Edward Feser… Feser replies to (literally) all of the objections and shows convincingly how the most popular objections ... are ‘staggeringly feeble and overrated'."

      "He achieves this hugely ambitious task in 320 pages?"
      --Of course not.

      The "proofs" of god offered by the ancients are all fallacious. No number of pages in any book could possibly rescue them.

      For example the First Way by Aquinas sufferers from begging the question, ad hoc assertion, false premise, false dichotomy, and is stunningly incomplete.

      Delete
  17. Edward when is you book on natural philosophy projected to be released?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Dr. Feser, would you consider a blog entry discussing the implications of political order(s)/systems against reductionist or materialist worldviews? Given the polarization we see today and your strengths in argumentation, I think the very divide and controversy we are seeing in itself is able to provide evidence if not proof of the transcendental good desired by all (and the aim or final cause of political activity).

    Also a good way to talk about or pint to documents like Rerum Novarum, a favorite I think we share.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Dr. Feser, thank you for all the work here, offering a great window into classic thought for those of us seeking a window into it — as a Lay Dominican (currently under Temporary Promise), I've found this access to Thomism particularly useful (I've recently gotten your AQUINAS and SCHOLASTIC METAPHYSICS both for that and as a guide to better read authors such Garrigou-Lagrange, Maritain, and Stein).

    I was curious, especially seeing your 2015 piece on the Christian and Islamic understanding of God mentioned by Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg the other day, if there's anything else to say regarding Bernie Sanders and Russell Vought (on the Christian-Islamic God question) or on Tim Farron's resignation from leadership of the U.K. Liberal-Democrats (on the subsequent matter of Christianity's philosophical relationship with Liberalism). I'm not sure if this is he best place to ask (versus emailing you), but your previous blog posts on those issues sprung immediately to mind when reading about those stories.

    Again, thank you and keep up the good work — there are many decided amateurs who read here without commenting (my field and degrees are in history and museums, so any philosophy or theology is either personal reading or old undergraduate electives).

    ReplyDelete
  20. Pre-ordered. Your expositions on natural theology have been extremely useful on my faith journey.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Yes! If western civilisation has any chance it will be because books like this are shared far and wide.
    I'd like to see someone put together youtube videos explaining the proofs as an intro for newcomers.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'd like to see someone put together youtube videos explaining the proofs as an intro for newcomers.
    thank you for the reply !


    goldenslot casino
    บาคาร่าออนไลน์
    gclub casino


    ReplyDelete