Jan 072014

[From new-to-us blogger and PEL Citizen Dan Johnson]

Natural law seems like a relic, remembered only by Catholics who use it as thin grounds for odd sexual theories: the evil of condoms, the intrinsic disorder of homosexuals.   Undeterred, our  Not School Philosophy of Law group decided to take a look at this relic, including selections from Aquinas and Martin Luther King.  It turns out to provide some interesting foundations for our constitutional principle of equal protection of law.  That may sound surprising, since equal protection is the primary basis for the string of recent court decisions in favor of gay marriage, yet natural law is portrayed as the enemy of such equality.  But hear me out.

Continue reading »

Dec 082013

For this post, I give you some theme music by a very talented musician named Sumner McKane. I chose this nice little tune not for the music itself (deserving though it may be), but for its title: “The Winter I Got Louder than Bombs and Standing on a Beach.” I’m going to assume this title reveals that Sumner has memories (and possible nostalgia) for a time in his youth when he found himself impressed for a particular Winter season spent listening to these two albums. For the music geeks among us, we will recognize these two titles as the B-side collections released by The Smiths and The Cure respectively. The title “Standing on a Beach” is a lyric from the song “Killing an Arab” which appears on the album. Robert Smith had found himself sufficiently impressed with Albert Camus’ The Stranger to write this song, which caused enough controversy that The Cure decided to name their collection with one of the lyrics from it.

Continue reading »

Sep 282011

Philosophy for Theologians logoIn a recent post I recommended the “Philosophy for Theologians” podcast for more information about Hume on miracles.

I’ve now listened to their first several episodes and can give a more comprehensive (both in the sense of covering more of there work and in the sense that I better understand their point) evaluation.

First, this is a good case to counter anyone who equates being Christian with being philosophically sloppy or positively stupid. What attracts me to this mainly is that the guys (there are a few regulars plus guests who are studying some particular figure and want to present him) give nice, in-depth presentations of (short) philosophical texts. The majority of many of the discussions is not about their Christianity (in their case, it’s “reformed,” meaning Protestant descended from Calvinism), and in fact it takes some work and digging into the episodes to figure out what their religious views are.

Continue reading »

Sep 172011

[Editor's Note: I've evidently had mixed luck in getting our podcasts guests to join in our blogging (Azzurra, Josh, and Sabrina, this means you!), but Robert here is has been eager to join in. You can read much more of him at outsideofeden.com.  -ML]

If you find working your way through the Summa Theologica or completing a course in medieval philosophy a bit daunting, you can skip the hard work and take a three minute crash course in the works of Thomas Aquinas courtesy of YouTube instead.

Watch on YouTube

I can’t for the life of me figure out why the first 20 seconds involves Thomas Edison, but the rest of the clip is a neat summary of Aquinas’ arguments for the existence of God through reason alone. The unmoved mover and the first cause arguments raised here are discussed in some detail in Episode 43.

-Robert Scott

Sep 152011

Discussing the arguments by Descartes, St. Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, William Paley, Kant, and others, as analyzed in J.L. Mackie’s The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God (1983), chapters 1-3, 5-6, 8, and 11.

Are the ontological, cosmological, and teleological (argument from design) arguments for God’s existence any good? Mackie, a very sharp analytic philosopher well hooked into recent advances in philosophy of science, says no. He’s chiefly responding to his Oxford colleague, Richard Swinburne, who takes a very rationalist approach to God, taking the concept of God to be wholly simple and intelligible and providing a superior scientific explanation for, e.g. the beginning of the universe than the brute fact of an ultimately uncaused physical universe. Read more about the topic.

Buy the book.

Mark, Seth, and Wes are joined by groovy South African theist blogger Robert Scott.

End song: “I Believe,” by Mark Lint (2011). Read about it.

If you enjoy the episode, please donate at least $1:

Aug 092011

On many episodes we’ve mentioned in passing, or given some author’s criticism of, the classic arguments for the existence of God:

-The ontological argument, whereby some quality of the idea of God itself is supposed to necessitate that such a being exists. The most famous versions are by Descartes and St. Anselm.

-The cosmological argument, which deduces from the fact that everything has a cause (or everything is contingent, or everything moves… there are several variations of this) that there must be a first cause, i.e. God. This argument dates at least back to Aristotle but was given its most famous formulations by Thomas Aquinas.

-The teleological argument, or argument from design, which says that since nature looks designed (i.e. uniformity, complicated structures that achieve impressive results), there must be a designer, i.e. God. This was given its most famous formulation in William Paley’s metaphor about finding a watch on the beach: of course, we’d assume that had a designer.

We’d planned an episode on these arguments from the very beginning of the podcast, but merely reading the source materials linked above would take us about 10 minutes. Well, we found (recommended in both theist and atheist sources) a book that does a pretty exhaustive job analyzing these major arguments: J.L. Mackie’sThe Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God

Continue reading »

Feb 042011
The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Crisis in Egypt – Anderson Cooper & Bill O’Reilly<a>
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> Video Archive

Here’s another brilliant take-down by Colbert of Bill O’Reilly’s argument from design (2 and a half minutes in): “Thank you Bill. You’re like St. Thomas Aquinas. … In that your understanding of the world is also from the thirteenth century.” A feel a little stung on Aquinas’ behalf by the association with O’Reilly and his half-baked theology.

– Wes Alwan