Dec 22, 2011

Edward Feser and Bad Poetry

I've taken a read through Edward Feser's blog post about understanding the universe,
and I must say I'm not impressed.

From that page:

It is very hard to affirm either [the world is thoroughly intelligible
in itself and thoroughly intelligible to us] or [the world is
thoroughly intelligible in itself but only partially intelligible to
us] without committing oneself either to classical theism or
pantheism. For once it is conceded that the world is at least in
itself completely intelligible, it is hard to see how this could be so
unless the most fundamental level of reality is something absolutely
necessary... However one elaborates on the nature of this ultimate
reality, it is not going to be identifiable with any “fundamental laws
of nature” (which are contingent, and the operation of which involves
the transition from potentiality to actuality within a universe of
things that are in various ways composite). One might still at this
point dispute whether the ultimate reality is best described in terms
of the theology of classical theism or instead in terms of some
pantheistic theology. But one will definitely be in the realm of
theology – rational theology, natural theology – rather than empirical

This really makes his argument one of definition. He's free to define
"the universe" or some such thing as "pantheism", but this is merely
definitional, and interesting only to apologists. ;). His argument is
not conclusive, it's merely bad poetry.

This would be bad enough (I like good poetry, after all), but then he
concludes that even UNDERSTANDING this is only within the realm of
theology, and not empirical science. This is total bollocks. He is
committing a logical fallacy of equivocation. He defines "the
universe" as "pantheism", and therefore because pantheism is
understandable only by theology, then the universe is only
understandable by theology. It's not convincing, it's a textbook
example of a fallacy in thinking.

I don't know how philosophers work in their professional circles, but
in science we have a peer review process. Feser's argument above would
not pass it.


Shripathi Kamath said...

You confuse philosophers with theologians, and it is because the theists co-opted philosophy like the Templeton Foundation is co-opting science. They declare that science and religion are not at odds, but they do this not by getting science into faith, instead they bring the church into science.

Like that Francis Collins.

Philosophers used to have peer review, and I think they still do.

rappoccio said...

Nah, not confusing them, I'm honestly confused how this would pass the muster of the philosophical community. It probably doesn't, and this guy is probably the "Dembski" of philosophy ;). Outskirts of reason, and all that.

Bretta Applebaum said...

It sounds akin to the "Palinization of politics," this attempt to make his theism sufficient to philosophy. I've never seen the word 'pantheism' used the way he did.

djindra said...

You're correct to point out Feser is playing with definitions. He habitually uses vague and self-serving definitions to make wild assertions. In the above quote we have to wonder what he means by "intelligible" in the first place. He claims laws of nature are contingent. Contingent on what? How is it "intelligible" to make this claim one way or the other? How is it "intelligible" to claim only absolute universals can be intelligible? As usual Feser spouts apologetic nonsense.