Saturday, November 30, 2013

Edward Feser on Nietzsche and Neo-Scholasticism

Ed Feser has responded to my Anamnesis essay. Here is an excerpt:
One thing’s for sure, the religious critics of natural theology and natural law seem chronically unable to provide any good arguments for their misgivings. I’ve had reason to consider several woolly attacks on natural law theory in recent months (e.g. here, here, and here), and another, by Thomas M. Cothran, has recently been posted at the website of the journal Anamnesis. It’s hysterical, in every sense of the word. Cothran assures his readers that we Neo-Scholastic natural law theorists, our Thomism and Catholicism notwithstanding, arereally implicitly beholden to… wait for it… wait for it… “a Nietzschean overcoming of Christianity.” The point of Garrigou-Lagrange’s Reality, it seems, was to provide a deceptively pious dust jacket within which to hide your copy of The Antichrist. Who knew? No doubt Henri de Lubac, who is (as the bylaws of Catholic anti-natural law polemic require), the hero of Cothran’s piece. Nouvelle theologie repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as a half-baked rant on the interwebs....
Would that everyone could have such discerning and well-tempered critics. 

There is a lot that puzzling about his response. He believes that the article is an "attack on natural law," when it actually champions natural law. I am not sure how he read an article touting natural law as a viable and underutilized alternative to secularism as an assault on natural law. Or how he asserts that Aristotle did not define the natural in contradistinction with the supernatural. (Hasn't every good Thomist read Metaphysics 6?)

One more bit:
What explains this mindset? Constitutional impatience with (or simple incapacity for) conceptual precision and argumentative rigor? A Pharisaical repugnance at the notion that non-Christian thinkers might have had something of importance to say about God or morality? Resentment of the suggestion that a mere philosophical argument could succeed where Bible thumping or rhetorical eloquence has failed?
Ed Feser's criticisms know no bounds but his imagination. I'll have a response out soon.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Nietzsche and Neo-Scholasticism

My new essay, "Nietzsche and Neo-Scholasticism: The Dangers and Promise of Natural Law," has been published on Anamnesis Journal's site. An excerpt:
To conceive of a natura pura (i.e., a human nature devoid of reference to the supernatural and transparent to reason) we would need to rid our traditions of thought of the vestiges of Christian revelation—and our model, at least in this respect, would be Nietzsche. Nietzsche recognized the degree to which Christianity had shaped the world, its refusal to stay within designated boundaries, the sheer saturation of God (at least the idea of God) into our thought, institutions, practices, laws, language, art, and so on. (Nietzsche even went so far as to declare, “We cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar.”) ...
A “pure nature,” a limpid sphere of human existence enclosed within the confines of created finitude, is therefore not simply given. In neither theory nor practice is a secular humanity given at the start and a religious dimension later added. But a pure nature can perhaps be achieved by a labor of thought that clips the wings of the human spirit.
Read the whole thing here