Notes on Money, Markets, and Economics
What I've Been Reading


Aristotle's Social Science. Salkever. Read Here..

The Goal Of Evolutionary And Neoclassical Economics As A Consequence Of The Changes In Concepts Of Human Nature, Anna Horodecka. Read Here..

Islam and the Economic Challenge, Umer Chapra. Read Here..

An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science, Lionel Robbins. Read Here..

Retrospectives: On the Definition of Economics, Backhouse and Medema. Read Here..

Welfare and Welfare Economics: The Early Contribution of Alfred Marshall. Caldari and Nishizawa. Read Here..

Economics Controversies. Rothbard. Read Here..

Economics and its Ethical Assumptions. Long. Read Here..

The Economic Point of View. Kirzner. Read Here..

The Philosophy of Economics. Bowman. Read Here..



A summary of Edward Feser's The Last Superstition

Posted By Trevor Newton
January 30, 2017

In the preface to the book, Feser identifies two widespread abnormalities in Western Culture, sexual libertinism and contempt for religion, which are the result of the modern scientific worldview which has become dominant over the past 400 years. This worldview itself is the result of a philosophical "error" which is the subject of Feser's book. His purpose is to state the error, show why it is an error, what the consequences of the error are, and how correcting the error will demonstrate that it is a "certain kind of" moral and religious traditionalist who is truly rational.(p.viii)

Feser's other purpose in writing the book is that he is disgusted and distressed at the ineffective arguments being put forward by those opposed to "the antireligious and libertine madness of the present time." He believes it can be demonstrated that both atheism and sexual immorality are departures from reason and are in a sense idiotic. Feser holds that, rather than battling these cultural shifts via populism or politics, conservatives need to address the "first principles" that led to these shifts. Feser also believes that monotheism and traditional sexual morality flow directly from reason, and therefore are objective truth, and so are outside the domain of courts, legislators, or public opinion.(p.ix) Feser is specifically defending classical theism and traditional morality as being the only rational guiding principles for the culture(p.x) and is attacking modern secularism as "ignorant, stupid, insane, and wicked" and which he says undermines "the very possibility of rationality and morality."(p.xi)

The first chapter opens by describing the conversion of well-known philosopher Antony Flew from atheism to theism, and how it came about as Flew began reading Aristotle and came to understand the First Cause argument.(p.1) Feser maintains that if other atheists try to understand Aristotle's reasoning, it would be difficult for them to remain atheists. However, proponents of modern secularism, which is functionally atheistic and itself a religion in a sense(p.2), have little interest in hearing or learning about the Aristotelian framework because they have succumbed to a "deeply irrational and immoral"(p.3) worldview which progressively causes them to dismiss any alternative, especially monotheism. This is exemplified by well-known atheists such as Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett, who seem willfully ignorant of classical philosophy. They are also ignorant of even the non-classical thinkers' rational arguments for theism, including those of Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Boyle, and Newton(p.4), even though the existence of God has, within most of Western philosophical history, been accepted based on reason alone.

Further, the naturalistic philosophy of secularists is not based on rational argument but rather on a kind of faith, and does not support reason or morality. Rather, reason and morality are possible only within the classical Western philosophical/religious framework, says Feser(p.4); conversely, an atheistic worldview is irrational, immoral, and insane.(p.5)

Feser relates his own story, how by reading various philosophical thinkers he came to see the assumptions of the naturalists/materialists as "naive and unfounded"(p.6) leading him to consider the Aristotelian philosophical framework and particularly Aquinas' version of it(p.7), which made him conclude that it was correct, and that the metaphysical assumptions of modern secular philosophers were mistaken, and that atheism and naturalism were impossible, rationally speaking.

Feser's conversion was, according to him, "a matter of objective rational argument."(p.7) Further he points out that Western religious tradition has always insisted its claims are rationally inescapable, and not dependent on faith. He comes back to his point that modern atheists are often unaware of the classical philosophical arguments for theism, and this is often intentional.(p.8) Any sort of religious argument is deliberately ignored by modern atheist thinkers, by default, because they desire their atheism to be true. The question of whether religious belief is justified by reason is not a scientific one but is rather a philosophical one, and therefore the science vs. religion war is a myth. Modern science has thus adopted a philosophical view.

A second myth (built on the myth of science vs. religion) is that an entirely material explanation of the universe and the mind is possible, without reference to purpose, meaning, or design. Again, both these myths are based on a philosophical position and not (cannot be) based on a scientific discovery/result.(p.11) This is Feser's third reason for writing the book - to show that modern secularist thinkers have adopted a philosophical view even while pretending otherwise, and that the materialist view (no purpose, no meaning) of the universe and mind is not only nonsensical but impossible in principle.

The science vs. religion narrative is not based on some scientific or theological dispute, but rather on a philosophical dispute, between two rival worldviews.(p.12) Most modern intellectuals have made a commitment to a strictly materialist (no God, no supernatural) worldview and so they make their science conform to it. Feser says the real war is between the classical philosophical framework built on Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, and the naturalistic philosophy of modern secularism whose adherents hold to it as if it were a religion.(p.13) Their position is akin to a religious one (yet they typically deny it) and Feser is suggesting they are hypocrites.(p.14) They assert that belief in God is superstitious and/or infantile, yet they attribute god-like powers to natural selection as if it were a master designer - even though they simultaneously claim it is blind and mindless.(p.15) Modern secularists thus often exhibit the two major characteristics (superstition and bigotry) which they accuse Christians of having. He further points out the vacuousness of secularism in that if offers no alternative to the religion it opposes, and defines itself only in terms of a negative ("we're not religious)"(p.17); there is no distinctively positive content.(p.19) They appear to be obsessed with redefining every non-material phenomenon (ex. the mind) in naturalistic terms, even when it is neither scientific nor rational to do so. The very things secularism claims to oppose, it has become; Feser claims it (secularism) is the mother of all superstitions.(p.20)

As a sidenote, Feser often shifts between terms like naturalist, materialist, secularist, modern philosophy, and new atheist, and to an extent they all overlap.

Feser says he will prove, in subsequent chapters, the main assertions he has thus far made, which he summarizes as: There is no war between religion and science rather it is between the philosophical worldviews of Plato/Aristotle/Augustine/Aquinas and Modern Naturalism; reason and morality are impossible within a naturalistic framework and are only intelligible within the classical philosophical view; secularism manifests (as it must) the irrationalism and immorality it claims to oppose, while monotheistic religion (as consistent with classical philosophical theism) cannot fail to resonate with everyone who is rational and morally decent.(p.21)

Feser's general observation regarding modern Western culture is that there is virtually no understanding of the cosmological argument and therefore zero understanding of the corresponding argument for religious morality.(p.22)

Plato's influence on Western civilization has been substantial, but earlier Greek philosophers such as Thales (knowledge comes primarily through the senses) and Pythagoras (knowledge comes through the intellect)(p.28) were influential as well. There were several others including Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Zeno. The common questions they sought to answer were What causes everything? What undergirds everything? What is the foundation of everything? Their fascination was with First Principles. This resulted from their questioning of the relationship between change and permanence, and similarly between the one and the many. (Oneness and permanence, vs. change and diversity). Those who held that oneness and permanence were fundamental, tended to view the intellect/reason as the source of knowledge; those who held to change and diversity, tended to emphasize the senses. Subsequently, the Sophists cynically believed no objective truth could be discovered, so what really mattered was winning the debate in order to accumulate political power (Feser suggests certain of today's secularists have picked up the Sophists' mantle). Socrates opposed the Sophists, believing that there is a difference between truth and falsehood, good and bad.(p.31)

Plato, Socrates' student, postulated a system accounting for the relationship between material and non-material, change and permanence, the one and the many, and the senses and intellect. His metaphysical view concluded that certain moral implications would result, on the basis of objective knowledge. His system was the Theory of Forms(p.32), and by a form he means an essence that is non-material and can't be grasped through the senses, that is universal and not particular, that we can only know through the intellect, and that is utterly objective (not at all subjective).(p.33). (Triangles and the "essence of triangularity" is a familiar example).

An essence exists but as an abstract object in a so-called third realm (outside of time/space). Virtually everything in the material realm corresponds to an essence in the third realm. When we come to understand an essence, we are understanding a form. Rocks, animals, people, and even concepts, have a corresponding essence, or form, that exists in the third realm. Plato's theory, if true, proves that reality extends beyond the material, and that this non-material reality is higher than material reality, and can only be known through the intellect (thought, reason) and not through the senses.

The natural world is an imperfect copy of the third realm (that is, the realm of forms). Particular things in the material world only exist because they exemplify a certain form. A triangle in the material world only exists because it exemplifies (i.e. participates in, or instantiates) the form known as triangularity which itself exists in the higher realm (the realm of forms). So while we may see and touch the material triangle through our senses, we can know the form triangularity but only through the intellect. We may even see and touch many particular triangles (the many), yet they all correspond to just one form (triangularity, the one), which is universal. Forms are eternal and unchangeable, and are more real than the material things which instantiate (exemplify) them. Material things are akin to shadows, and forms are akin to the objects which cast the shadows.(p.35)

Forms are non-material and can only be known through non-material means. Therefore the human intellect/soul, which obviously can know forms, must be non-material.

The more that a thing is like its underlying form, the more "good" it is, where "good" is an objective truth determined by a thing's essence/form. And, the source of all forms is something like God (although Plato only implies this)(p.37), who is knowable through reason, and knowing this source is the highest end of philosophy and science.(p.38) Thus a single unifying principle, the Form of the Good, could be deduced through the intellect and also lead to an understanding of ethics.

While Plato's Theory of Forms may be abstract and subject to debate, Feser maintains that it is to a degree unavoidable if we are to understand not just mathematics and language but also the world. To support this position Feser points to the existence of three abstract things: universals (as in the triangle idea), numbers, and propositions (statements about things). The view that these three abstract things exist objectively, apart from the mind, is difficult to disprove, and is called realism. The alternative views are nominalism (denies that they exist at all, which is the prevailing modern view), and conceptualism (they only exist in our mind). The debate between these three views, the "problem of universals", is in some way implicit in "virtually every major religious, moral and political controversy"(p.42) of the past several centuries. The debate is complicated but Feser devotes several pages to argue in favor of realism and against nominalism/conceptualism, concluding that not only is it very difficult to resist realism, but also there is no motivation for doing so apart from a general desire to oppose it.

Moving forward to Aristotle, Feser notes that Aristotle agreed with Plato's realism, but thought forms do not exist in a third realm but rather they exist in the objects they are the forms of, yet without being reducible to the material or mental.(p.50) Further, unlike Plato, Aristotle believed that our intellects come to know these forms through our senses sensing the objects(p.50) (i.e. abstraction from experience(p.64)). It is Aristotle's version of realism (Aristotelianism) that Feser holds to, and claims that abandoning it was the "single greatest mistake ever made" in Western thought, correlating it with the modern problems of mass abortion, euthanasia, redefinition of marriage, and sexual libertinism in general.(p.51)

Feser spends about ten pages explaining Aristotelian metaphysics. In summary, Aristotle preserves Plato's realism but in a more practical way, affirming that there are objective essences/natures/forms of things, but that our knowledge of them comes first through our physical sense (and not first through our intellects).(p.62) Further, Aristotle provides a system for understanding causality, the four causes.

The material cause of a thing is the matter it is made of (and thus requires that the matter itself has certain potentialities but lacks others(p.64)). The formal cause is the form (pattern) that the matter exhibits (and is shared by other things). The efficient cause is specifically what brought the thing into being ("actualizes the potentiality" of the matter). And the final cause is the ultimate purpose of a thing. These four causes thus are a system for explaining things, and each cause is a necessary part of the system.

The four causes are a general system and apply to everything in the physical world. A cause "cannot give to its effect what it does not have"(p.63) and therefore every cause has within itself the features of its effect (either formally or eminently). This is the opposite of what the New Atheists (and the philosophers which provided the cover for them, like David Hume) hold to. Since the four causes apply to things in the physical world, they explain both organic and inorganic things. Thus even inorganic things exhibit final causality (purposiveness, goal-directedness)(p.69), apart from any conscious thought or intention. Of the four causes, final causes hold the preeminent place, because they are the central aspect (and determinant) of a thing's formal cause. It is "only because a thing has a certain end or final cause that it has the form it has..."(p.70) Feser also shows that neither material causes nor efficient causes make sense without final causes. In fact nothing makes any sense (nothing in the universe whatsoever) without final causes.(p.71)

This conflicts with the dominant view of secularists, which is that there is no final causality, even though they (like all humans) think, speak, and act in such a way as to affirm final causality all the time. Their official position is that final causality is an illusion, and that all causes are exclusively and ultimately purposeless, meaningless, and goal-free.(p.71) Feser's main objection to this view is not only that it is false, but also that it, first, is always accompanied by the myth that Aristotle's doctrine of four causes has been disproved by modern philosophers and scientists - a myth that is widely accepted as true; second, because it has had very serious and destructive consequences both in philosophy and throughout Western culture; third, it is nearly always presented as if it were some great discovery when in fact it was no such thing; and fourth, because modern intellectuals use it to continue to draw nonsensical philosophical conclusions which they ignorantly embrace as new discoveries.(p.72)

Despite the popularity and seeming confidence of the New Atheists (Richard Dawkins. Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett) Feser characterizes them as mental midgets who haven't even tried to understand or refute the strongest arguments (Aquinas) for the existence of God, preferring instead to focus their efforts on easier targets such as the "God of the gaps" arguments (Paley)(p.81) which have in some cases accepted certain philosophical assumptions which weaken their power.

The arguments of Aquinas are not only metaphysical but they are also similarly derived as one might derive geometrical or mathematical theorems. They are not empirically derived, and thus are not hypotheses meant to explain various phenomena, with a certain probability of being true.(p.81) Therefore, unlike an empirically deduced hypothesis which might fail because it falls outside accepted probability or because conflicting evidence is discovered, Aquinas' arguments are true for the same reasons Pythagoras' theorem is true: you reason through a proof and an inescapable conclusion follows which is true unless some logical fallacy is found somewhere in the proof.(p.82) The metaphysical arguments of Aquinas (and Plato, and Aristotle) are of a certain type of rational argument. They take empirical starting points, and then try to show that (alongside conceptual premises) certain metaphysical conclusions follow. For example, Aquinas holds that because things exist, display change, and "exhibit final causes, there necessarily must be a God who maintains them in existence at every instant." The only way to refute this metaphysical argument is to either dispute the empirical premise (but "that things exist" can hardly be disputed) or find a flaw in the metaphysical reasoning.

But neither Dawkins nor the rest of the New Atheists have bothered to do this, seemingly because they are ignorant of the basic difference between a metaphysical argument and a scientific hypothesis, and so they judge Aquinas' arguments incorrectly. And even those who are aware of how metaphysical arguments are constructed yet who reject metaphysics as illegitimate (such as the proponents of "scientism"), find that in doing so they have adopted a metaphysical position and have thus refuted themselves.

Science routinely adopts certain metaphysical assumptions (ex. there is a real world that exists independently of our minds; our senses are at least somewhat reliable source of information; etc) and so for scientism to argue that metaphysical assumptions are illegitimate is to argue in a circle. Scientism rests on assumptions which are metaphysical yet it denies the legitimacy of metaphysical reasoning.(p.84)

The New Atheism tends to ignore the fact that Aquinas' metaphysical arguments for the existence of God (and the immortality of the soul, and morality from natural law) are drawn from pre-Christian classical (Aristotelian) principles. It mischaracterizes the First Cause argument as if it were simply "the universe must have originally been caused by something, which must be God" when it is rather more like "the universe could not exist or exhibit change in the present moment unless God also exists in the present moment, causing it to exist as it does." It is impossible to accurately judge Aquinas' arguments by simply reading his Five Ways (a few pages at the beginning of his Summa Theologiae) which are at most a brief summary. Feser is saying that the New Atheists, and modern secularists in general, are either unaware of Aquinas' arguments or have intentionally not addressed them.(p.87) He also holds that, short of divine revelation, the only way we can understand God is by reason, and therefore must examine the arguments for God's existence along with their implications - something that modern secularists have generally not done.(p.89)

There are many good arguments for God's existence. An argument advanced by Augustine is that, since universals/propositions/numbers can be shown to exist according to realism, and since they are eternal and necessarily existent, and since they cannot exist apart from a mind which itself must be eternal and necessarily existent, therefore that mind must be God.(p.90) This argument is consistent with the thoughts of the Scholastic philosophers including Aquinas, whose ideas when combined with those of Augustine are called Scholastic Realism. Although Aquinas was a Scholastic Realist, his arguments for God's existence tended to begin with premises which can be known through the senses. Feser summarizes three of the arguments.

The Unmoved Mover argument (aka the "argument from motion") is that, because there is change, there must be a first changer (which itself is unchanging) of everything that changes. This first changer is also the First Cause. When causes happen in series (as they generally do) they can be considered either accidental to the effect or essential to the effect, where accidental means the series of causes are independent in their causal powers yet are still each a contributing cause, and essential means they are non-independent in their causal powers.(p.92) (For example, one of the essential causes of me writing these words is my nervous system, but an accidental cause of me writing these words is my parents who produced me). This distinction is important to Aquinas' argument because he doesn't try to prove "the universe had a beginning whose cause was God" (which would be an argument based on an accidentally ordered series of causes) as some atheists falsely claim. Rather he looks to essential causes in the here and now which presently and simultaneously are causing change (ex. my writing of these words is being caused simultaneously by my nervous system, my brain, electrical impulses, various laws of nature including gravity... and so on to, ultimately, a first changer [God]).(p.93)

This line of reasoning would infinitely regress and be incoherent were it not to include a First Member of the causal series. Reason also must lead us to conclude that this First Member is unchangeable, or in philosophical terms is pure actuality and utterly without potentiality. From this "we can go on to deduce all sorts of things about what a being of Pure Actuality would have to be like, and it turns out that such a being would have to be like the God of traditional Western religious belief." Such as, first, there cannot be more than one being who is pure actuality, hence we get monotheism. Second, this being would have to be non-material, since matter is changeable. Third, this being must include every power, including all intellect, all will, all knowledge, and every other power, with no limitations, because of the principle that a cause cannot give what it does not have meaning everything that is caused must be formally or eminently in the cause itself. Hence this being is both omnipotent and omniscient. This also means, since He is Pure Actuality, He can have no defect (because a defect is unactualized potentiality) and so He must be all-perfect, and all-good.(p.99)

Most New Atheists attempt to argue against the Unmoved Mover argument without ever having understood it in the first place. To summarize Aquinas' argument, when we start with the fact of change (which is observable through our senses and is not seriously in dispute), and we understand what an essentially ordered causal series is, we are inescapably led to conclude there is an Unmoved Mover having certain attributes.(p.101)

The First Cause argument, the second of Aquinas' arguments presented by Feser, begins (as do all of Aquinas' arguments for God's existence) with what we can observe with our senses: Because there is change in the universe, the universe must exist. But why does it exist? That is, What keeps the universe in existence? (Not What got things started?) Nothing can cause itself (the principle of causality). Nothing in the universe has existence within its nature. Everything in the universe that exists is patterned after an essence (or form) and is the composite of its essence and matter. But other than existing mentally, the essence (or form) only exists when combined with matter. And similarly a thing cannot come into being without an essence. But there is nothing in matter or essence which guarantees either's existence. So existence of a thing and essence of a thing are distinct. And since they are distinct, something needs to put them together, and that "something" can't be the thing itself (principle of causality) rather it must be something whose essence is existence, that is, a being for whom the essence/existence distinction does not apply. This being must be pure being, pure existence, the First Cause (God).

From this Aquinas concludes that not only is this being Being Itself, but He is also Pure Actuality, and absolutely simple (i.e. not a composite of anything, physical or metaphysical).(p.108) So all of His attributes (omniscience, omnipotence, all-goodness, etc) exist in God as one (unified, not fragmented).

The Supreme Intelligence argument, the third of Aquinas' arguments presented by Feser, is also known as Aquinas' Fifth Way. Nothing can be directed toward an end unless the end exists in someone's intellect, which is thus directing it toward its intended end. So there must be a Supreme Intelligence behind the system of ends (i.e. final causes) that make up the physical universe.(p.116) Again, this argument is not a hypothesis nor does it rest on probability, rather it is "conceptually impossible that there could be genuine final causation without a sustaining intellect."(p.116) This Supreme Intelligence "cannot fail to be identical with the First Cause and thus with the Unmoved Mover, with all the divine attributes."(p.117)

The arguments for God's existence have implications for the immortality of the soul and also the natural law conception of morality. Aristotle and Aquinas consider a soul to simply be the form/essence of a living thing. Thus all living things (human/animal/plant) have souls. Aristotelians further differentiate souls accordingly as nutritive (plant), sensory (animal), rational (human), a hierarchy which puts the rational soul on top. Like all things, a human being has ends (final causes) but his include ends which involve being rational and having free will. Feser says rationality is the ability to understand forms/essences and to reason (no definition provided) on the basis of them, and that its end is the "attainment of truth, of understanding the world around us."(p.122) Free will (which Feser also does not define) has as its end to choose those actions which are most in line with the truth (as discovered by reason), which is morality. In other words, in the Aristotelian system of Aquinas, morality is "the habitual choice of actions that further the hierarchically ordered natural ends entailed by human nature."(p.122) And so it follows that the chief end is to know God. Therefore morality can also be defined as living in a way that facilitates the  knowing of God.

The intellect, which Feser says Aquinas defines as a "power of the soul"(p.126), must be entirely non-material. This follows from the form of a thing existing in the thing. That is, the form (which is not material) exists in the thing (which is material), and in doing so makes the thing the thing. So if, in my intellect, I think of a form, then by definition my intellect would become the thing if my intellect were material.(p.124)

Feser maintains that the only way to refute this argument (or any of Aquinas' arguments for that matter) is to either show that the premises are false or that somehow the conclusion is incorrect. Modern secularists rarely attempt this and instead use results from empirical research, or Ockham's razor ("the simpler explanation is usually better"), or the like, as the basis for their counter-argument - which is no counter-argument at all. Aquinas bases his arguments as following rationally from certain metaphysical conclusions, and thus his religious view of the world is informed by objective rational argumentation and not by wishful thinking or superstition as some of his critics might claim.

Regarding Aquinas' views on natural law and the morality which rationally follows from it, most of the modern atheists' counter-arguments are, according to Feser, superficial and demonstrate their lack of understanding as to what natural law even is. The "natural" in natural law is not referring to nature as it is commonly understood, rather it refers to nature as in form or essence. It might, it seems, readily be called "form law" because all it means is the extent to which something (a person, a chair,...) is acting in accordance with the form it instantiates. The more I conform to my form the more I am acting in accordance with natural law.(p.133) Or to put it another way, one can look to a thing's form/essence/nature to determine the good for it. Hence "a good triangle is one that corresponds as closely as possible to the form of triangularity..."(p.135) But the same is true of humans beings, and since (in the Aristotelian view) we have intellect and will, moral goodness is possible because we can choose to pursue that which we know is good (and this is the end/purpose of our intellect and will).(p.137) Our knowledge of what is good can be deduced rationally, and thus we have natural law.

This entire argument falls apart if there are no final causes, or forms/essences/natures. For if there is no form for human beings, then there is no such thing as what is good for a human being. And if there are no final causes, then reason has no purpose and thus the pursuit of knowledge of the good is futile (Hume and his disciples take this view).

But if things really do have final causes, then we are faced with numerous (natural law) conclusions, and Feser describes a few of them: Humans must be meant not only to pursue truth (which is therefore "good") but also to have babies  (also "good") in large number ("good") meaning there must be a fulltime provider (a father/husband, "good") and therefore marriage in something like the conventional sense ("good").(p.143) And since the final cause of human sexual capacity is having babies, then what is good is to only use this capacity consistently with that purpose, thus ruling out sexual libertinism and the like.(p.145) Abortion is also clearly out, as is any type of "marriage" other than man/woman. Again, all this follows necessarily from the premises, and the only way to argue against it is to either question the premises or find error in the conclusions. If there is no natural law, then nothing is contrary to nature, in which case there can be no grounds for morality.(p.150

Natural law theory, although derived through reason, must also lead to religious observance and worship of God. Obedience to natural law is obedience to God (p.152) who is the author of it.

According to the arguments Feser has presented, objective reason reveals that God exists, that we have souls which are eternal, and that there is natural moral law. All of this is consistent with the teaching of Western religious tradition. But further than this, these rationally deduced conclusions also entail that the resurrection must surely be possible, and that in light of the historical evidence, reason would conclude that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead. And so on. In other words, Feser (Aquinas) is saying that the philosophical arguments which prove God is real provide sufficient background knowledge to accept on rational grounds the resurrection and divinity of Jesus, and thus Christianity. So reason must lead to faith in Christ. That is, reason leads one to believe (have faith) in what Christ has said, because reason has made it clear that since He is divine, what He says is true. "Faith doesn't conflict with reason, then; it is founded on reason and completes reason."(p.157)

And yet for most Christians, who likely don't know all the philosophical reasoning, they instead trust that their authorities (priests, pastors, etc) do in fact know the philosophical reasoning, and so they trust in their religious authorities in the same way they trust scientific authorities regarding the laws of physics - because they have a rational basis for believing the authorities are trustworthy.

Aquinas' arguments thus set the stage for faith by giving it a rational basis. This is one of Feser's aims - to make the case for "natural theology" (that knowledge of God can be deduced purely through reason).(p.160)

The question Feser now turns to is, Why did early modern philosophers abandon the Aristotelian/Aquinas framework?

Rene Descartes (considered the father of modern philosophy) believed that humans have souls but otherwise he deviated from classical philosophy. He saw humans as machine-like, consisting of purposeless matter. Today's heirs of Descartes have held to this mechanical view but have gone further by denying the soul. Feser traces Descartes' rejection of classical philosophy back to John Duns Scotus and William Ockham, both scholastics who rejected Aquinas' synthesis of Aristotelianism and Christianity.(p.168) Ockham thought human morality is based entirely on arbitrary divine commands and is not rationally deduced by human nature. Neither can God's nature be discovered through reason, only faith, which is the only way to come to moral knowledge. Ockham was, says Feser, a conceptualist, rejecting universals and essences except as existing in the mind, and also rejecting the Aristotelian view of causal connections (a view later echoed by David Hume, and one which eliminates the philosophical basis for science).

But what really provided the intellectual cover and framework for the abandonment of Aristotelian Scholasticism was the Reformation. It challenged and rejected Roman Catholic ecclesiastical authority and with it Aquinas' metaphysics (which provided the philosophical worldview to support Roman church authority) in favor of a more individually-determined authority ("primacy of individual conscience"). This shift in authority spread throughout Western culture and provided the opportunity for modern secularism to take root in all intellectual spheres particularly science. This was accompanied by a shift in cultural priorities toward the material interests of the individual and the pursuit of self-interest, independent of ecclesiastical authority. Thus Aristotelian metaphysics was never refuted, it was just abandoned along with the Roman Catholic church.

This gap was all that was needed for Descartes, Hobbes, Locke and others to advance alternative philosophical ideas that would be used not just to support a materialist/naturalistic scientific framework but also to exclude Christianity from the culture altogether.

Thus the Aristotelianism of Aquinas was replaced with the Mechanical Philosophy of Bacon, Hobbes, Locke and Hume, which denies meaning because it denies both formal and final causes, and thus by extension denies God. Things are nothing more than their component parts, which themselves are meaningless, and in turn subject to meaningless physical laws. Divine Purpose, indeed any purpose, is either fictional or unknowable. 

Feser characterizes the Mechanical Philosophy as devoid of positive content, representative of an animus against Christianity in general and Aristotelian Scholasticism in particular, and an attempt to replace something with nothing. The technological advancements which have followed this philosophical shift are not, to Feser, proof that naturalism or the Mechanical Philosophy are correct; rather, Feser says, they would have also been possible within the framework of Scholasticism which is in  no way incompatible with science.(p.180)

Feser maintains that, of all the modern philosophers, Locke has been perhaps the most influential on contemporary Western culture. While Locke's arguments are feeble his conclusions (regarding science, religion, and individual rights) have become widely accepted because Locke provides an alternative to Scholasticism which, even if indefensible, is convenient to those who dislike Christianity, Aquinas, and/or the Roman Catholic church. 

Feser returns briefly to Descartes, whose views were not nearly so weak as those of Hobbes, Hume and Locke. Descartes, while opposed to the Scholastic framework, preserved purpose and meaning (and reason and morality) but severed them from the physical world by moving them to an exclusively non-material setting, the human mind. It was a combination of Plato and Mechanical Philosophy, but it failed as an alternative to Scholasticism because it introduced the problem of subjectivism i.e. all that can be known with certainty are the contents of our own minds. This primacy of subjective human consciousness thus left a gap for the rest of the moderns to roll through with their totally mechanistic view which denied purpose, meaning, and the soul altogether.(p.187) The result has been moral and intellectual chaos.

Because the Mechanical Philosophy holds that there are no formal or final causes, and no essences/forms, and thus no goal-directedness, it concludes that there are just blind laws of nature governing particles on a purposeless basis. And even though nature may seem to have purpose, it actually does not.(p.187) Hume and Locke held to this and (centuries later), Darwin the biologist would further argue that "the appearance of purpose can be accounted for in entirely purposeless terms"(p.188) i.e. through the blind forces of mutation and natural selection.

The Mechanical Philosophy also leads to a mind-body dualism (which Descartes embraced) which poses a dilemma to the naturalistic view. This view holds that sense qualities (such as color, odor, taste) only exist in the mind but do not exist anywhere in the physical world including our brains. But this then requires that the mind be non-material. There must therefore be two realms - the physical (as explained by the Mechanical Philosophy) and the mind or soul which is non-material. While there are some within modern philosophy who accept this dualism, others reject it by trying to explain the mind in material terms.(p.191) But this is impossible, according to Feser, because it is impossible to explain subjective qualities in purely physical terms, and attempts to do so are just disguised denials of them, and are therefore denials of conscious experience as well.(p.192) Further, because the mind exhibits intentionality (a problem itself to anyone who rejects final causes) it absolutely cannot be explained in material terms.(p.194) The naturalistic view of reality hits an impassible roadblock with intentionality because not only does it conflict with their denial of final causality but it also cannot fit within their materialistic system which by their definition is devoid of final causes. Therefore unless one is willing to deny the existence of the mind (as Eliminative Materialists do) then mind-body dualism is inevitable if the Mechanical Philosophy is accepted.

Although Descartes accepted mind-body dualism he denied the Scholastic view of the soul(mind)-body connection (i.e. the form-matter relationship which exists throughout nature) and thus he could not explain the connection between the human mind (or soul) and the physical body. The cause-effect connection between mind and body, which so obviously exists, cannot be explained by Descartes or his successors without either violating the laws of physics (interaction between the physical and non-physical would entail a transfer of energy between the realms, thus violating the law of the conservation of energy, says Feser) or appealing to a divine explanation,(p.197) something which modern secularists won't do hence their futile attempts to explain the mind naturalistically.

But the mind-body problem is just one of many with the Mechanical Philosophy. Feser presents six more of them.

First, the problem of skepticism, How can I truly know anything? i.e. the problem of not knowing whether anything can be known.(p.201) Second, the problem of induction, How can we know that what we haven't observed is like what we have observed?(p.202) Third, the problem of personal identity, What does it mean to be a person? which leads inevitably to abortion, euthanasia, and other moral plagues.(p.208) Fourth, the problem of free will. If my intellect and will are reducible to arrangements of particles which are subject to purposeless, blind laws of nature, then I am no longer directing my actions but rather they are ultimately determined by blind physical forces.(p.209) Fifth, the problem of natural rights. If there are no formal or final causes, no universals, and no purposes, then there is no natural law or natural rights, and morality must be invented by man. Sixth, the problem of morality in general. If there are no forms or essences then there is no objective standard for what is good or what is bad. And, if there is no formal or final cause, and thus no natural end or purpose, then nothing can be judged as right or wrong. Thus there would be no philosophical basis for morality whatsoever. Feser shows that for moderns like Hobbes, Hume and Kant, there can ultimately be no objective right and wrong, good or evil. The only way, says Feser, of grounding morality in reason is to accept Aquinas' Aristotelianism along with its formal and final causes, God, the soul, and natural law. These also require a monotheistic and non-naturalistic view of the world.(p.221)

Modern philosophy cannot accept this which is why its founders redefined the word "rational" and made the false accusation that religion (specifically Christianity) has no defensible intellectual foundation. "This myth is sustained by nothing more than rhetorical sleight of hand facilitated by general ignorance."(p.222) The groundwork for this "centuries-long scam" was, according to Feser, "inadvertently laid by medieval thinkers like Ockham and by the Protestant Reformation."(p.222) This has led to the decimation of religion, morality, and science, and the debasement of mankind as evidenced in Nazism, Marxism, abortion, euthanasia, sexual confusion, and general dehumanization. The remedy, says Feser, is to return to First Principles, which is to begin with the metaphysical structure of reality (as Aquinas would explain it) which is consistent with "the ordinary man's belief in what his senses tell him" from which "the existence of God, the immateriality and immortality of the soul, and the natural law conception of morality all follow."(p.228)

Feser spends the final chapter surveying some of the more remarkable inconsistencies and inescapable conclusions of the modern philosophical view. Eliminative Materialism, "the theory that beliefs, desires, and other mental phenomena do not exist"(p.229) is according to Feser the inevitable result of the Mechanical Philosophy and the rejection of formal and final causes. Its proponents not only have all the thoughts, feelings and desires which they simultaneously deny exist, but they also demonstrate intentionality (the defining aspect of the mind) even as they make the argument that their minds don't exist.(p.234) Yet Eliminative Materialism, while still a minority view in the materialist camp, continues to be given space because it logically can't be rejected once one accepts the materialistic view, which itself is the result of a dogmatic insistence on denying God and the supernatural. Materialism has succeeded in prolonging its dominance only by relegating everything it can't explain to the realm of the mind, but it is approaching the point where it either must deny the mind exists (Eliminative Materialism), accept something like Descartes' dualism, or return to Aristotelianism.(p.237)

It is ironic, says Feser, that materialists' arguments can only make sense if interpreted in Aristotelian terms, that is, in terms of final causes. Their actions and intentions continuously demonstrate that final causes exist. We always act "for the sake of certain ends, goals, or purposes." Those moderns who are devoted to "the purpose of proving that there is no purpose" demonstrate their argument is incoherent.(p.247) The idea that final causes have been refuted through discoveries of modern science is altogether untrue, and if anything the truth of irreducible teleology (final causality) is made more evident through modern science, not less. When Darwinists discuss biological phenomena they regularly use teleological language in describing nature (ex. the function of a certain body part is such and such, a dog wags its tail in order to show so and so, etc). Or consider DNA and genes: they must be described teleologically in order to be explanatorily useful. Yet when confronted with this inconsistency, Darwinists qualify their words by claiming they don't really mean what they say.

Even in complex inorganic systems, such as the water cycle and the rock cycle(p.258), objective patterns in nature are obviously apparent and are not mental constructs. Science itself, which is concerned with predicting outcomes on the basis of observed phenomena, requires the assumption that inductive reasoning be objectively valid, but this assumption is unjustifiable if Hume's explanation of causation is true. That physicists will, upon the basis of experiments, take the results as established, indicates that they accept a "nature that is universal to things of that type."(p.262) To accept the existence of the inherent power or capacity of something is to accept that it is directed to something beyond itself.(p.262) But to accept that something points beyond itself "even though it is totally unconscious is, of course, nothing other than the Aristotelian notion of final causality."(p.263) Final causality is irrefutable throughout the natural world, not just irrefutable when it comes to the mind. The "anti-Aristotelian ideological program" (p.261) does not fit the practice of biological, chemical, or physical science.

Modern philosophy has tried to position itself as inseparable from the technological advances of the past three hundred years, yet the advances themselves refute that interpretation, and rather support the philosophy of Aquinas. Still, proponents of the Mechanical Philosophy (which include today's materialists and naturalists) religiously cling to their myths even while the very science they claim supports their views only reinforces the Aristotelian metaphysics they deny. Modern science remains, necessarily, dependent on final causality and with it the entire Aristotelian framework of forms, actuality and potentiality, and all of the four causes.

These facts largely go unrecognized because there is a "prevailing general ignorance about what the Aristotelian and Scholastic traditions really believed"(p.266) although this wasn't always the case: For the early moderns, although knowledgeable of it, were opposed to it for ideological reasons which included a desire to "reinvent human life away from the next world and toward this one, and to weaken the rational credentials of religion so as to make this project seem justifiable and inevitable."

Which brings Feser to the main reason that moderns reject, must reject, Aristotle: "To acknowledge the truth of the Aristotelian metaphysical picture of the world is thus unavoidably to open the door to everything the Scholastics built on it... for that reason alone, contemporary secular intellectuals cannot allow themselves to acknowledge it. For the project of the early moderns is their project too. But that project is built on a lie."(p.267)