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.

1 comment:

  1. Your critic's response seems petulant in the extreme. It strikes me that Dr. Feser is pretty flippant with the revealed word of the infinite and wonderful God, especially for someone taking on the mantel of a Thomist. It is no accident that the Summa begins by treating the necessity of the revealed truth of God for the Salvation. One might rightly accuse Aquinas himself of starting Summery of all Theology with Bible thumping. Further I find it odd that Dr. Feser would chose evoke the image of the Pharisee in his criticism of the article in question. One could draw a parallel between the compartmentalizing of religion practiced by the Pharisees, who tithed their tenth leaf of cumin but failed to care for widows and orphans, and the tendency to conceive of human nature in secular terms outlined in Mr. Cothran's article, as both involve a failure to fully apply biblical notions of human nature consistently. To attribute to the author of an article the very mindset, or at least an analogous one, he is arguing against seems to lack both conceptual precision and argumentative rigor. Perhaps, as one with an amateur interest in Philosophy, only holding a BA, I missed the philosophical charity I was taught to display in my studies within Dr. Feser's response. I think that Dr. Feser's time would be better spent publishing his work, rather than engaging in philosophical feuding.