Still reading: The Last Superstition-A refutation of the new atheism

Still going with this book by conservative philosopher Edward Feser. It has continued in much the same way as the introduction. Mix in the middle chapters is an OK treatment of Plato’s theory of forms, an outline of Aristotle’s metaphysics and a moderate chunk of Thomas Aquinas. Still lots of carping about Richard Dawkins et al, which would actually be funnier if it was more snarky. Unfortunately Feser seems to be hitting ‘petulant’ more often than really good digs.

Often this attempt at digs detracts from his argument and even makes himself look either foolish or prone to weak reasoning. For example he brings up the repeated counter arguments by atheist writers to William Paley’s watchmaker argument for the existence of god (or at least of a creator/designer):

Why atheists are so fixated on Paley I cannot say, unless it is precisely because he is such an easy target: If he didn’t exist, atheists would have had to invent him or find some other straw man to beat.

While only a few sentences before Feser has correctly noted that Paley is popular with Intelligent Design theorists and creationists. Yet this apparently professional philosopher is at lost to understand why a notable biologist and theorist of evolution whose primary conflict with theists is not the tiny section of Christianity trying to revive Thomist scholasticism but with the heavily funded evangelical campaign to impose creationism in classroom. For the creationist (and off shoot Intelligent Design movement) Paley’s argument is not a straw man but a recurring theme.

However all of that is just an annoying diversion from the guts of his argument and it doesn’t bode well. In short the upshot will be that God (and unless things taken a surprising diversion) and everything else Feser happens to believe is a necessary truth like Pythagoras’ Theorem or 2+2 equaling 4 (Feser’s two main examples). He has mentioned Frege and Russell, so Feser can’t be wholly ignorant of the foundational crises in mathematics from the 19th century onward but it really doesn’t look like his notion of a neccesary truth will be any more sophisticated than that he found some of Aquinas’s arguments quite convincing. Formal deduction takes a bit more work than that and Aquinas didn’t have the tools and Feser doesn’t look like he has the background and it will all be question-begging hooey anyway.


2 responses to “Still reading: The Last Superstition-A refutation of the new atheism”

  1. Heh, yes. Years ago I used to argue with Creationists and such, and the watchmaker argument came up like clockwork ( second law of thermodynamics arguments were almost as common). There were a number of arguments you’d see over and over like that, and one of the reasons I (mostly) stopped engaging in religious discussion is that it was just so terribly repetitive. There’s an early point where discussing the arguments can seem interesting, but not so much on the tenth or twentieth repeat of the same kind of argument. Also, of course, it’s usually pointless – I was younger then, and it took me awhile to understand that in these discussions we were talking past each other: We didn’t accept the premises the other was using, so the arguments on both side had no impact on the other party. Anyway, over the years when I’d see others argue on the same issues, I’d still see the same arguments discussed on one site after another. *OF COURSE* atheists would be arguing about watchmaker – you can’t get away from it.

    I haven’t read Edward Feser’s book, but I have read about him. It appears that his assertions may seem convincing for someone who already accepts the premises he builds on, but are unconvincing to those who don’t.


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