Edward Feser: No dogs go to Heaven

I love it when theologians fight with each other, especially Sophisticated Ones™.  And when they argue about reality, as Catholic philosopher Edward Feser does with Orthodox philosopher David Bentley Hart in Feser’s post on the conservative Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse site, the results are hilarious. For when contesting faith-based claims about reality, there’s no way to decide, using evidence, who’s right.

The topic of this particular fracas is one that’s engaged us all: “Do animals go to Heaven?”

Hart says “yes,” Feser “Hell, no!”.  Leaving aside the small matter that neither of these gentlemen has any evidence that Heaven exists, the discourse must perforce be based on word-parsing, philosophy, and making stuff up. And both Feser and Hart are good at that, with Feser throwing in his patented requirement that one must read all of Thomas Aquinas (the founder of “Thomism”), study many other philosophers, and especially read Feser’s own books and articles before one can even have a say in this issue. Also, given his thin skin, this post will undoubtedly prompt Feser to reply on his own site, accusing me of theological ignorance. That’s like being accused of ignorance about the biology of unicorns. All I will add is that one cannot make assertions about reality based on philosophy alone.

But to the fray. Hart, says Feser, is dead wrong when he says that animals go to heaven, and Feser calls him out with some lame snark:

Hart’s beef with Thomists this time around is that they deny that non-human animals possess “characteristics that are irreducibly personal,” that they deny that “many beasts command certain rational skills,” and that accordingly—and worst of all, for Hart—Thomists deny that there will be “puppies in paradise.” Hart, by contrast, affirms the “real participation of animal creation . . . in the final blessedness of the Kingdom,” asserting that Heaven will be “positively teeming with fauna.” To make his case, he insists on “the intelligence, cognitive and social” of the humpback whale, the bottlenose dolphin, and the orca. Alas, Hart failed to mention the shark. Perhaps he was too busy jumping it.

Yes, that’s Feser’s link, put there to direct pious Christians to a phrase they might not understand. But why does Feser think that Hart is wrong? Why don’t animals go to heaven?

Well, Feser first contends that Hart doesn’t understand the Thomist argument about why you won’t find Fido playing a harp. Hart, says Feser, claims it’s because Thomists think that animals are basically like pieces of wood, lacking intentionality, affection, pleasure, sentience, or sensation. But, says Feser, Thomists don’t think that! They agree that animals have these qualities and feelings, but lack something more important—the Key to Heaven that only humans have: rationality, abstract thought, and the ability to conceptualize which is embodied in language. Here’s the meat of Feser’s argument:

Hence, like other animals, we have sensory awareness. But unlike other animals, we can conceptualize what we perceive and feel, and this fundamentally alters the character of our perceptual experiences and appetites. A dog can see a tree and we can see a tree, but the “seeing” we do is very different from that of which a dog is capable. For the dog cannot see a tree as a tree—it cannot conceptualize or understand what it is seeing by putting it within the general class “tree”; cannot infer that since this class is itself part of the larger class “plant,” to see a tree is also to see a plant; and cannot grasp that to be a thing of the sort that is seen entails taking in nutrients, going through a growth cycle, etc. A dog can feel pain and we can feel pain, but the “pain” we feel is very different from that of which a dog is capable. For we can conceptualize the pain as indicative of injury or bodily disorder, can infer that long-term health or even life might be in jeopardy, and so forth.

Feser contends (see below) that such conceptualization cannot rest solely on our more complex brains, but is indicative of a nonmaterial soul. He continues.

Think of it this way: animals and plants both need water, will flourish if they get it and atrophy if they don’t, and behave in ways that facilitate their getting it—plants by sinking roots, animals by searching for a stream, pond, or dog dish. But it doesn’t follow that plants, like animals, know anything like the pangs of thirst or the satisfaction of quenching that thirst. Similarly, that a dog will snuggle up to a child or wag its tail when its master arrives does not entail that its “love” is comparable to the highly conceptualized love that a rational animal feels for his child, friend, spouse, country, or God.

Indeed, for it’s that “conceptualized love” that gives humans the privilege of sitting with the angels, while Fido—well, I’m not sure where Feser thinks Fido goes. But surely a large part of love that humans feel is unconceptualized love: pure animal passion triggered  by hormones. We may embroider it with our evolved big brains, but that doesn’t mean it differs in some fundamental, non-material way from animal “love.”

Indeed, Feser goes on to espouse a nonmaterial aspect of humans that gives us our ability to conceptualize—our nonmaterial soul. And here he’s just making stuff up, like his hero Aquinas:

So, the reason Thomists deny that non-human animals are destined for Heaven has nothing to do with a Cartesian or “mechanistic” conception of animals. What is the reason, then?

The reason is that non-human animals are entirely corporeal creatures, all matter and no spirit. To be sure, the matter of which they are composed is not the bloodlessly mechanical, mathematical Cartesian kind. Non-human animals are not machines; they really are conscious, really do feel pain and pleasure, really do show affection and anger. But these conscious states are nevertheless entirely dependent on bodily organs, as is everything else non-human animals do. Hence, when their bodies die, there is nothing left that might carry on into an afterlife. Fido’s death is thus the end of Fido.

If human beings were entirely corporeal creatures, the same would be true of us. But, the Thomist argues, human beings are not entirely corporeal. We are largely corporeal—as with Fido, our ability to take in nutrients, to grow and reproduce, to see, hear, imagine, and move about, depends on our having bodily organs. But our distinctively intellectual activities—our capacity to grasp abstract concepts, to reason logically, and so forth—are different. They could not be entirely corporeal.

What? WHY couldn’t our ability to grasp abstract concepts and reason be entirely corporeal? After all, many “corporeal” animals have signs of such things. Animals can show reason and seem to take an intentional stance, as when birds will dig up and re-bury an acorn if they see another bird watching them. Ravens, as I’ll write about soon, refuse to cooperate further with other ravens who don’t pull their weight in a joint task; they have a concept of “cheating.” Animals can reason, too, as with corvids or chimps that can put together tools to master a complex task, something that would seem to require abstract thought.

And there’s every sign that our intellect is intimately connected to our brain. You can damage the intellect in predictable ways by damaging certain portions of the brain, and extinguish your intellect with chemicals like anesthetics. There are diseases like Cotard’s Syndrome in which patients entirely lose their sense of self. And you can produce conscious intentions to do something, like licking your lips, by stimulating certain parts of the brain.

The more we learn about the brain, the more we realize that its workings, and the things that appear to make us different from other animals, are embedded in that gray matrix of neurons. There is no evidence for a “soul” that is not simply something attached to that matrix, and which doesn’t die when the matrix dies. Feser has not a whit of evidence for the soul, or for a complete and unbridgeable evolutionary discontinuity in mentation between humans and animals. He’s simply making stuff up to ensure that only members of our species will get past Saint Peter.

Of course Feser has other reasons to assume a soul, but here he pulls a Fermat:

There are several reasons why [our intellect cannot be entirely corporeal], though spelling them out adequately requires complex philosophical argumentation that is beyond the scope of this essay.  For example, some Thomists argue that thoughts can have a precise or unambiguous content, whereas no purely material representation could have such a content — in which case thinking is not reducible to the having of material representations encoded in the brain. (I have defended this line of argument at length elsewhere.)

If you have $20, you can purchase that article from The American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. I have no wish to, for which Feser will undoubtedly excoriate me. But until he gives me evidence for a soul or an afterlife, I needn’t pursue the matter.

And in the end Feser begs the question:

If human beings do have, in addition to their bodily or corporeal activities, an activity that is essentially incorporeal—namely, intellectual activity or thought in the strict sense—then when the corporeal side of human nature is destroyed, it doesn’t follow that the human being as a whole is destroyed. There is an aspect to our nature—the intellect—that can carry on beyond the death of the body, precisely because even before death it was never entirely dependent on the body. This is why there is such a thing as an afterlife for human beings, as there is not for non-human animals.

He’s again making stuff up: arguing that because we have an incorporeal intellect (which he hasn’t shown), and because by definition an incorporeal intellect lives on after the body dies, then we get to have an afterlife (for which he’s adduced no evidence). And of course that afterlife could simply be a bundle of thoughts floating around the cosmos, not a chair next to Jesus. Where’s the evidence for a Biblical heaven?

The only rational reaction to this type of confabulation is ridicule and utter contempt. Can you imagine grown men arguing about whether dogs, cats, sheep, and cows go to heaven? Yet Feser gets paid for this, and is regarded as one of the most influential philosophers of religion. It all goes to show how intellectually depauperate that discipline is.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 1.09.54 PM

Self promotion from Feser’s website

229 Comments

  1. Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I thought for a moment that this post was going to be about a Family Guy episode called “Not all dogs go to heaven”.

    Aw heck… let’s just watch cartoons all day.

    • nightgaunt49
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      I am less contemptuous than I find it fun. But on the order of speculations on other fanciful things not taken seriously by anyone anymore. Soul or not it is unnecessary. As for Heaven besides wondering where it is, maybe some pocket dimension nearby, the Fortean in me sees it as an intellectual exercise only-like the mystical concept of a Heaven and a Hel. Unfortunately those two, and millions of others, take it deadly seriously. Like Scientology some treat it as serious business.

      What does their tell-all-book compendium they call “Holy Bible” say? Anything? I know that in that Twilight Zone episode dogs do go to Elysium or Heaven or Valhalla with Arthur Honeycutt. But…not exactly Christian from my study of it.

      I could write a whole article on just what Christians in the USA think is Biblical and is in fact just popular culture. Personally I like the take the writers have done with the long running drama Supernatural. At least certain parts are devilishly contrary.

  2. Ian Clark
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Grown adults arguing about whether dead dogs’ spirits go to a place called Heaven. These guys have to remember that their Heaven was empty for billions of years, because humans have only evolved in the last 200,000 years, and domestic dog breeds are much younger.
    If every Earth-created, dead life-form gets its spirit into Heaven, the place will be a bacteria-laden hell.

    • Scott Draper
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      Bacteria don’t go to Heaven, silly.

      • Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        I guess effective digestion is a no-go in Heaven?

        • phil
          Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:51 am | Permalink

          That might be preferable, then if dogs do get to heaven they won’t be pooping on the pavement, and their owners wouldn’t have to clean up after them with doodoo bags.

          And the birds in heaven wouldn’t poop in your hair.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      Grown adults indeed.

  3. Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I have an irrefutable philosophical refutation of everything Feser has ever said in my back pocket but I don’t have time to post it to this comment. However, for $50 I’ll send a copy to anyone who wants to read it. If you don’t read it, along with everything Stephen King has ever written, the entire Silmarillion, and at least five Spectacular Spiderman comics, then you are simply unqualified to even reply to this comment.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Everything Stephen King has ever written? But given the guy’s output rate, and the fact that most of his restaurant cheques are (oddly) not published, that in itself is going to be the work of several lifetimes.
      The Silmarillion, on the other hand, I can heartily recommend. As my parents figured out at the appropriate time and brought me a copy for the Newyearmastane of publication. Unfortunately, I’d brought a copy – from the same bookshop, on the same day, and the bookseller didn’t see the significance of father and son getting the same book on the same day. [SIGH]

    • Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.

      -Stephen King

      I’ve done your required reading and I think I have a knockdown argument against Feser…what happens if one of these monsters is in fact your dog and you die with him inside you? Free trip to Heaven for Fido! Pay me $100 and I’ll buy your $50 pamphlet and tell you just why its wrong based on my above argument.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted October 29, 2015 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        Brilliant argument! Actually, I’ve been looking around and you’re already making a name for yourself professor Buckley:

        “Chrisbuckley80 has that rare ability to make philosophical argument about cats-going-to-heaven-an’-stuff compulsively readable” – Anthony Kenny

        “Buckley80 is one of the best contemporary writers on the philosophy of modal logic, metaphysical pseudo-quantitative realism and will-doggy-woggy-go-heaven” – National Review

        “He’s grrrrrr-eat” – Edward Feser

        • Posted October 29, 2015 at 11:51 am | Permalink

          Why thank you. It’s a doggone hard job doing this type of thinking and following reason to its obvious and true end. But I realize I’m standing on the shoulders of giant word salads that came before me, and tossing the known absurdities aside.

  4. rickflick
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    This is an amusing debate between wishful thinkers.
    My take on animals is they are already in heaven. This can be seen in that they willingly submit and enjoy their role in nature’s universe (unlike humans who rebel and suffer for their egos). We know animals are all Zen masters. Especially pets like Hili and Leon.

  5. Blue
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    The weally, weally important gubmin’ people in to the Center just now found me, over this, “That’s like being accused of ignorance about the biology of unicorns,” doubled over at my workstation and, there, guffawing to m’feet.

    I straightened up and, with as much countenance as the horn of said unicorn, offered ’em up some hot tea. And in to their meetin’. Still … … well, smirking.

    Bet the two of ’em think I, the ditz, am three sheets to the zeitgeist.

    Blue

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      High comedy it is. So they have accomplished something today. Unfortunately they did not even come close to achieving what they wanted, which I think is awe and respect.

  6. CB
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    You’d think their quite apparent lack of any kind of grounded knowledge would inspire some real curiosity and they might try to follow thru with some attempts to learn more. Why don’t they get as exasperated as I do reading this fluff. Their box must be hermetically sealed.

  7. Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    For the average believer, I don’t know if worrying about whether an animal has a soul or conceptualizes is an important issue regarding heaven.

    I know plenty of people that would not consider heaven to be paradise unless their beloved pets were there as well.

    On the flip-side, almost everyone would think heaven was hell if certain animals were there (eg. cat people would not want to see dogs, some people like spiders, but arachnophobics would not want them there, etc.)

    IF heaven existed and was paradise, I suspect everyone would have to have their own personal heaven. There was a funny Night Gallery episode where a guy died and went to hell, only to find that it wasn’t fire and brimstone but a boring room with old relatives showing home movies, etc. The devil explained that that was hell to him, but oddly enough there was an identical room for someone in heaven.

    • nightgaunt49
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Good thing there will be a winnowing process so that only true believers of the hardest kind will be let in the meek gun toting flag waving yahoos paradise. In their new immortal bodies they will hunt for ever, that will be their Heaven. A hell for someone else to be sure.

      Just as in dystopian novels, they leave out that it is a utopia for the ones who benefit from it or it wouldn’t exist.

      • rickflick
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        In some interpretations everyone gets their own planet. No one’s heaven is someone else’s hell. Everybody gets what they want and deserve. My planet will be devoid of weapons but there will be sex.

        • Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

          And surely, sex will not be used as a weapon?

          • rickflick
            Posted October 27, 2015 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

            Maybe, but the conflicts will be the playful kind where everyone ends up with a smile.

            • Stuart van Onselen
              Posted October 28, 2015 at 2:51 am | Permalink

              Bonobo heaven!

  8. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I am now trying to remember if in the final Narnia book, Narnia heaven had only talking animals or some ordinary ones as well.

    There ARE horses in heaven in C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”, but Dante’s Paradiso has no animals.

    The best heaven story ever is the highly unorthodox “What Dreams May Come” by Richard Matheson.
    (His son, Chris Matheson, is the author of the highly irreverent/atheistical “The Story of God: A Biblical Comedy about Love (and Hate)” the subject of a recent Dan Barker/Annie Gaylor “Freethought Radio” podcast only a few weeks ago.)

    The movie had animals in heaven but I can’t swear to the book.

    =-=-=

    More seriously, Hart is a Greek Orthodox Christian which has had many many metaphysical differences of opinion from Catholic Thomism from the get-go.
    Thomism believes in two orders of reality, a supernatural order and a natural order, a viewpoint the Eastern Orthodox reject, along with the Thomistic notion that all objects having both substance and accident. Hence, no “transubstantiation” in Eastern Orthodoxy etc. etc.

    • Posted October 28, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      I *seem* to remember that in LB the “dumb beasts” get “upgraded”, but …

  9. Kevin
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Pay no mind to real problems, like sustainable energy, health care, global trade policies. Fasten your seat belts little boys and girls, the wisest adults among us are tackling humanity’s great question of our time: WDJDWTP. What does Jesus do with the pups?

    This should be called half-thinking. The consequence of extensive perjury to one’s intellect due to a faith based hope.

    Where are my Skittles? Elysium can haz dem too, right?

  10. Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    it is well known that sheep go to heaven and goats go to hell (Cake 1998), therefore the question becomes, are dogs more like sheep or more like goats?

    • Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      It depends on the attitude of their tails. Up, they’re like goats; down, sheep.

      /@

  11. Tulse
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Non-human animals are not machines; they really are conscious, really do feel pain and pleasure, really do show affection and anger. But these conscious states are nevertheless entirely dependent on bodily organs […] We are largely corporeal—as with Fido, our ability to take in nutrients, to grow and reproduce, to see, hear, imagine, and move about, depends on our having bodily organs

    So, just to be clear, when we go to heaven, apparently we are not conscious, don’t feel pain or pleasure, or show affection or anger, or see, hear, imagine, or move about. Sounds like hell to me.

    • Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      Feser says at the end of his screed that thre’s no sex in Heaven. What a joyless place!

      • Robert Bray
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        Allow me to append section 6 from Wallace Stevens’ ‘Sunday Morning:’

        ‘Is there no change of death in paradise?
        Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
        Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
        Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
        With rivers like our own that seek for seas
        They never find, the same receding shores
        That never touch with inarticulate pang?
        Why set the pear upon those river banks
        Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
        Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
        The silken weavings of our afternoons,
        And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
        Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
        Within whose burning bosom we devise
        Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.’

      • eric
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        No sex. No animals. No food or drink. You are aware many of your loved ones are in constant pain/hell and can do nothing to help them. No competitive games (someone would lose). Etc. I had an argument with a fundie once about how such a place could be enjoyable. His argument was that God removes from you all those base desires for pleasures that fundie Christians think are sinful, leaving only a perfected you. So on top of all the other problems with their vision of heaven, there’s the problem that God coercively brainwashes you into liking it.

        • Tulse
          Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

          So wanting to know your loved ones are not being tortured for all eternity is a “base desire”?

          Wow.

          • eric
            Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

            That’s my paraphrase, but the gist is correct; this fundie believed that those in heaven are not mentally pained by the thought of people in hell. It seems to me that most people would require some serious brainwashing to get to that state. Then again, Feser says this:

            There is an aspect to our nature—the intellect—that can carry on beyond the death of the body

            So Feser seems to be tacitly accepting that we leave some ‘aspects of our nature’ behind, and this fundie was saying something very similar to that. Maybe empathy is a biologically-based feeling that gets left behind along with your stomach and sex organs. How horrible.

            • Tulse
              Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

              Given how much gets left behind, and how much our personalities get changed, I’m not clear how it would actually be me in heaven. It sounds like some genericized, drugged out parody of me is all that will end up there (presuming I even make the cut, which I most certainly wouldn’t).

              It sounds like one is actually more like oneself in Hell, in that you keep all the desires and ability to feel.

            • Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

              I don’t have time to dig up the quote right now, but Feser in one of his own books, gleefully contemplates what it would be like watching New Atheists burn in Hell.

          • eric
            Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

            Ah, here we go, here is more of Feser on this. He’s talking about sex, but it seems to me that this argument can easily be broadened to be exactly the same sort of argument my fundie was making:

            Young people find it difficult to understand how we could fail to miss all of this, and anyone with an amorous disposition can sympathize. But, in fact, we will not miss it. That’s the thing about the beatific vision: it rather leaves everything else in its dust. And I submit that if you won’t miss sex when you’re in Heaven, it’s a safe bet that you’re not going to give much thought to Fido either.

            Got it? Beatification changes your personality to such an extent that you no longer like the things you currently like, nor will you miss the things you currently enjoy but which will be absent in heaven. You won’t give much thought to Fido…or grandma, I guess.

            • Tulse
              Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

              So we all get to be identical blissed-out zombies? Um..”yay”?

            • HaggisForBrains
              Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:32 am | Permalink

              A bit like our atheist understanding of death, in fact.

            • kevin7alexander
              Posted October 28, 2015 at 8:14 am | Permalink

              For some reason when I see the word beatification I read it as Beatification. Then I think of Jack Kerouac. He does make more sense than any theologian.

        • Posted October 28, 2015 at 1:23 am | Permalink

          No competitive games so no one loses. That means cricket will be in heaven then.

      • steve oberski
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        No sex in heaven ?

        What will all those Catholic priests do ?

      • Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        And even that shows a lack of ability to think outside the box. The bible does not say there is no sex in heaven, only that there is no marriage. But the idea that the rules might be different in heaven because circumstances would be different (therefore sex without marriage, maybe) is ungrokkable to these folk.

        • Posted October 28, 2015 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          Again, to paraphrase G’Kar, how much like themselves these folks think their god is!

      • Tim Harris
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        Since Wallace Stevens is quoted, here’s Milton on sex in Heaven (it sounds rather exciting):

        (Adam has just asked whether love is made, physically, as it were, in Heaven)

        To whom the Angel, with a smile that glowed
        Celestial rosy-red, Love’s proper hue,
        Answered:—”Let it suffice thee that thou know’st
        Us happy, and without Love no happiness.
        Whatever pure thou in the body enjoy’st
        (And pure thou wert created) we enjoy
        In eminence, and obstacle find none
        Of membrane, joint, or limb, exclusive bars.
        Easier than air with air, if Spirits embrace,
        Total they mix, union of pure with pure
        Desiring, nor restrained conveyance need
        As flesh to mix with flesh, or soul with soul.
        But I can now no more…

        And since spirits can assume either sex, it sounds rather like a bonobo orgy. William Blake has a splendidly comic reworking of Milton’s lines, but I can’t remember where it comes.

        I’m reading Feser’s ‘The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism’, since I think one should read one’s adversaries, and finding thoroughly unpleasant in its humourless invective. He is clearly am intelligent man, and would have done better to confine himself to explicating the arguments that interest him instead of advertising his admiration for George W. Bush and pretending that every right-wing talking point has the intellectual backing of Aquinas and the Catholic Magisterium, and going on about the ignorance of everybody who doesn’t agree with him. He seems to be the kind of man who supposes that logical consistency is pretty well synonymous with truth, and then locks himself into a logically consistent cage and, once in there, spins more and more webs of consistency, blinding himself with them and b;rocking off all light from outside.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

          blocking off all light

        • Posted October 28, 2015 at 1:12 am | Permalink

          “Exclusive bars”! Now that doesn’t sound very nice. Thrones, Powers and Dominions only! No Archangels or lesser entities.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:54 am | Permalink

            And no under-age cherubs, either. Though on earth it seems that’s all right, or has been all right….

            • Anonymous
              Posted October 28, 2015 at 8:36 am | Permalink

              Although, if spirits can, as Milton informs us, assume the form of either sex, they can surely assume the form of underage cherubs and predatory priests or clones of Jimmy Saville (one supposes that there might be some spirits into that sort of thing)… in which case, Heaven does not sound so different from this world.

            • Tim Harris
              Posted October 28, 2015 at 8:37 am | Permalink

              Although, if spirits can, as Milton informs us, assume the form of either sex, they can surely assume the form of underage cherubs and predatory priests or clones of Jimmy Saville (one supposes that there might be some spirits into that sort of thing)… in which case, Heaven does not sound so different from this world.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:07 am | Permalink

          I’ve remembered the Blake:

          Embraces are cominglings from the head even
          to the feet,
          And not a pompous high priest entering by a
          secret place.

          It’s from ‘Jerusalem’. Feser’s recommendations about sex are all in favour of pompous high priests, clad in religious certainty and not in a condom, entering by secret places.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:36 am | Permalink

            Embracings in Heaven, that is, not, alas, on Earth.

      • Anonymous
        Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:05 am | Permalink

        No sex, huh?

        Guess that means no Cole Porter tunes, either.

        Forget about the Stones & the Doors.

      • phil
        Posted October 28, 2015 at 7:04 am | Permalink

        After all, god invented sex so we could please him by having nothing to do with it.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Or just death.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:34 am | Permalink

        +1

  12. Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    1. If d*gs can dream, then they can conceptualize.
    2. D*gs, indeed, do dream.
    3. Modus Pollens: d*gs conceptualize

    Ergo, d*gs go to heaven!

  13. Robert Bray
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    There’s a Jimmie Rodgers song, a kind of hobo’s dream, that opens in this way:

    ‘Will there be any freight trains in heaven/
    Any boxcars in which we might hide?
    Will there be any tough cops for brakemen,
    Who’ll tell us that we cannot ride?’

    Why the heck not, if d*gs are allowed? And the question then becomes, steam or diesel locomotives? BOOAARD!

  14. Paul S.
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Wondering if Feser realizes his inability to “reason logically” means he won’t go to heaven.

  15. Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Feser:

    But unlike other animals, we can conceptualize what we perceive and feel, and this fundamentally alters the character of our perceptual experiences and appetites. A dog can see a tree and we can see a tree, but the “seeing” we do is very different from that of which a dog is capable. For the dog cannot see a tree as a tree—it cannot conceptualize or understand what it is seeing by putting it within the general class “tree”; cannot infer that since this class is itself part of the larger class “plant,” to see a tree is also to see a plant; and cannot grasp that to be a thing of the sort that is seen entails taking in nutrients, going through a growth cycle, etc. A dog can feel pain and we can feel pain, but the “pain” we feel is very different from that of which a dog is capable. For we can conceptualize the pain as indicative of injury or bodily disorder, can infer that long-term health or even life might be in jeopardy, and so forth.

    So babies are like ‘other animals’ then?

    But somehow I know that the Thomists will have come up with some tortuous reasoning to show why infant humans aren’t like other animals, despite this appeal to a characteristic of animals that condemns them to not being special, like us.

    • nightgaunt49
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      The Bible never mentions animals getting “new bodies” or even existing much less plants. Doesn’t stop some fantasists from imagining it as so because they like the idea better.

      Someone calculated that Heaven is huge and it would be larger than several Earths combined to hold the entire population.

      How silly and optimistic that person is. Heaven will be nearly empty and Sheol or “Hell” will be full and then some. Like Dr. Nietzsche I would like to be where the interesting people are…

      • Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

        “… larger than several Earths combined …”

        Riverworld!

        /@

    • Tim Harris
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:19 am | Permalink

      What has come across, so far as I have read in Feser’s ‘The Last Superstition’, is that universals, in order to properly be universals, exist in some kind of Platonic space outside the world and are things (well, not things) that only the properly rational mind of the human being can recognise, ergo the soul (an existence independent of the world we live in), ergo God, ergo Heaven. But of course dogs are perfectly able to recognise, in a wordless way, the category of dog and the category of human being, not to mention the category of, dare I say it? – cat. And lions don’t make the mistake of putting hippopotami or members of their own species in the category of zebras, say, or gnus, or gnu atheists (which, unlike Freser’s God, they regard as human).

  16. Darth Dog
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Feser may have read everything written by Aquinas, but he obviously never read Will Rogers.

  17. Posted October 27, 2015 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Clearly, each of them is still struggling to come to grips with that time that their parents flushed the dead goldfish down the toilet.

    b&

    • rickflick
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      That explains a lot. LOL.

  18. Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    The real reason animals don’t go to heaven is that it would then be overpopulated with insects, mostly beetles.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:10 am | Permalink

      Thought the saying had it that the Lord must love beetles, He made so many of ’em.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:42 am | Permalink

        That is usually attributed to J B S Haldane. “An inordinate fondness for beetles.”

        cr

  19. Paul S.
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Heaven, I’ll pass.
    One concept of heaven is being with your family for eternity, which seems like hell to me. Sure, I love my family, but if I’m in heaven I want to talk to more interesting people. Just image the queue to talk to Einstein. It would make the lines at Disney seem like a picnic. And really, why would Einstein want to talk to me.
    The other concept of being able to watch your children/grandchildren grow up is far worse. Imagine the torment of watching as your child is raped by a priest and not being able to do anything about it. Worse still not caring that it’s happening.
    I don’t see how you can make heaven attractive.

    • rickflick
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      “I don’t see how you can make heaven attractive”
      I hear it’s the music (they don’t do polkas or bagpipes).

    • Scott Draper
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      Happiness is mere brain chemistry, so, sure, you can be made happy for eternity.

      (ignoring the question of what brain chemistry is without a brain.)

      • Marella
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

        And without chemistry.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted October 29, 2015 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        It is, however, brain chemistry that comes about for a variety of reasons.

        • Scott Draper
          Posted October 29, 2015 at 8:37 am | Permalink

          But can be induced artificially, easy for an omnipotent being.

          • Timothy Harris
            Posted October 29, 2015 at 8:57 am | Permalink

            Yes, but the question that intrigues me is why one would want to call someone ‘happy’ when they were simply being kept in an artificially induced state that to persist would have to entail their being removed from contact with reality. Or if they did have contact with reality and were ‘happy’ whatever vicissitudes they encountered (their daughter killed herself, their dog went to Hell, their partner divorced them), you would not think them happy, you would think them desperately unfortunate or mad. You could hardly call it a ‘happy life’ when such a life consisted in being maintained in a state that amounts to being oblivious to all around you.

            On 29 October 2015 at 22:37, Why Evolution Is True wrote:

            > Scott Draper commented: “But can be induced artificially, easy for an > omnipotent being.”

          • Timothy Harris
            Posted October 29, 2015 at 9:05 am | Permalink

            The point is that to assert that happiness is simply brain chemistry is to say a lot less than I think you think you are saying.

            • Scott Draper
              Posted October 29, 2015 at 9:34 am | Permalink

              You have lost contact with the thread of conversation.

              We’re talking about being in Heaven. People often claim that they couldn’t be happy doing anything for eternity, but that’s a mistaken notion based on our natural brain chemistry.

              If the hypothesized omnipotent being exists, then, by definition, he can tickle our happiness centers of the brain until the end of time.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted October 29, 2015 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

                No, I was addressing the assertion that ‘happiness is mere brain chemistry’, the kind of knock-down assertion that is too often taken to mean more than it does both within this world and without it, and pointing out that it does not do justice to the complexity, ethical and otherwise, of our lives. If within this world we would not call someone happy who was maintained in a constant state of ‘happiness’, then I see no reason to think that a soul that is maintained in a state of ‘happiness’ or Feserian ‘bliss’ is happy either. (I think that is why Dante’s Paradiso is much less interesting than his Inferno & Purgatorio: there is nothing that one could begin to call a human life in Heaven.)

              • Tim Harris
                Posted October 29, 2015 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

                And being maintained in a state such that one is reduced to uncontrollable giggles of bliss as one watches the sinners burning beneath you… I think one needs to think about what happiness actually is.

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:11 am | Permalink

      To add to Ben Goren’s argument based on God not calling 911, there’s also the perfect afterlife he created where you get to watch terrible things happen to people you care about (and others that you should at least have a baseline of empathy for) and the rules of this afterlife specifically prevent YOU from calling 911 as well.

      So anything in Heaven with a shred of empathy is being tortured by knowledge of horrors they can do nothing to stop.

      And this is the GOOD afterlife?

      • Pali
        Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

        Bah, that was me, sorry.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:16 am | Permalink

      “L’enfer c’est la famille”?

  20. Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    The title of the original article should’ve been, “when sophisticated theologians be beefin'”

  21. Tulse
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    So if reasoning is necessary to have a soul, does that mean that those with severe cognitive impairments are soulless? Can those in irreversible comas be killed like an animal? And what has happened to their souls? Did they just fade away? Should those at risk for Alzheimer’s be worried that they will die without a soul?

    • eric
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      I believe the standard Sophisticated Theologian answer (I’m describing, not defending) is that all humans are given a soul and thus the potential for reason, though not everyone realizes that potential. But if you don’t realize it, you may still go to heaven because of that potential, and in heaven you will (magically) realize it. The aborted babies go to heaven, but they don’t stay fetuses for eternity, they are magically transformed into thinking adults.

      This, of course, brings up all sorts of questions. Like why bother with Earth in the first place if you plan on working such a radical transformation on souls upon entry to Heaven anyway. And why not give animals an ‘unrealized potential for reasoning’ so they can go to heaven too.

      • Tulse
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        If aborted fetuses go directly to heaven, without any risk of eternal torment like they would have if they were born, then doesn’t that make abortion a sacrament? Why would anyone condemn a baby to the possibility of eternal damnation, when you could send a fetus straight to eternal bliss?

        • eric
          Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

          Well that’s a theological problem not limited to abortion, it applies to all humans; why not kill them the moment they’re saved?

          IMO a problem specific to this idea of nonrational zygotes going to heaven is that if God’s going to do that, there is no point in free will and Earth at all. We clearly don’t need this life as a learning or developing experience if we can enter heaven without it.

          • eric
            Posted October 28, 2015 at 7:11 am | Permalink

            Now that I think about it, Feser’s ‘beatification’ removes any need for hell. Why not let the Hitler-typess into Heaven, if his victims no longer feel any pain over what happened and he himself has been stripped of all desire to do evil?

        • wetherjeff
          Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

          Great point – that is something I have thought for a long time. Better to just dispatch them to heaven immediately than condemn them to a sinful, earthly existence that might lead them to Satan.

      • Posted October 28, 2015 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        That is the stock answer that I’m accustomed to hearing. The followup question to your aborted fetus scenario is why let any child reach the age of reason? Wouldn’t it be more moral to kill them all and allow the guaranteed entry to Heaven (i.e., not allowing the to risk losing eternal salvation by sinning in adulthood)? The obvious initial reply would be that this would gain the killer a trip to Hell, but doesn’t that make the sacrifice all the greater? The exchange of your eternal suffering to ensure the eternal happiness of the innocent children?

        Of course, I realize that their are extreme amounts of compartmentalization going on and the average believer never contemplates this scenario, much less considers putting it into action. Andrea Yates did put it into action and people were rightly appalled. But, this thought experiment should be pretty damning for the whole worldview. It simply makes no sense to risk life on this planet (which, even in the happiest of times supposedly pales in comparison to Heaven) if loved ones can get to paradise more quickly.

    • Sastra
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Yes, placing most of the emphasis on reasoning ability means that what’s supposed to be the most important capacity of all — the ability to love God and gladly submit yourself to Him — stands curiously to the side. If intellect is front and center for what makes a human soul and the soul is central to what allows us to fraternize with the divine, then one would expect the relationship with God to end up being an intellectual one. Perhaps Heaven will consist of discussion, dissent, and philosophical argument, with human beings acting in the capacity of students or maybe even peer review.

      But of course no Thomist would allow mere human beings an equal mental consanguinity with God. In fact, even describing us as “children” fails to capture the level of inequality inherent in our differences. We teach and guide our children so that they may grow up some day to be like us. I’m pretty sure the entire point of worldly existence however is supposed to be for us to learn to NOT aspire to that.

      Fulfilled human souls seem to function more like pets than anything — slavish, adoring, obedient, and beloved by Master. Theologically, WE are like the modern ideal of the dog. So Feser’s need to distance human beings from animals is a wise one on several fronts.

      • Tulse
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

        Theologically, WE are like the modern ideal of the dog.

        “Don’t worry, Billy, grandma has gone to a farm where she will run and play with all the other grandmas.”

        And actually, the Christian story of the afterlife isn’t much more sophisticated.

        • Sastra
          Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

          Yes, that’s the analogy which always comes to mind when people bring up the consolations of faith in an afterlife, expressing sympathy and pity for the nonbeliever and marveling that such strange creatures apparently exist.

          I feel as if I’m surrounded by a lot of adults insisting that sick pets are always taken by veterinarians to health farms, places where — no matter how old and diseased they were — they are quickly cured by the fresh air and sunshine! But only if the owners agree to not try to see them, or think too hard. Of course.

          What they call “coping” I call “deep denial.” And what goes for Fido goes for Grandma. It’s okay maybe for little kids. It’s not a mature wisdom which honest people ought to foster in themselves and others.

      • DiscoveredJoys
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t want to get sucked down into the Whirlpool of Woo, but if Feser asserts that intellect is The Most Important Thing (one which I imagine Feser believes he has in spades by some strange coincidence) then what about the intellects that are undeveloped because of early childhood death or intellects that are blunted by Alzheimers?

        Heaven is like a jumper – you start tugging at a loose thread and the whole thing unravels.

  22. Anonymous
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    “You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.”

    Robert Louis Stevenson

  23. David A. Eberth
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    In three hundred years theology has progressed from angels to dogs dancing on the head of a pin. Now that’s real doggone progress!

  24. David Duncan
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    ““You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you they will be there long before any of us.”

    Robert Louis Stevenson

    (Tried to post this twice without name and e-mail address, just noticed that those fields had been cleared.)

  25. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Two very silly people. There are so many things wrong with their views I do not know where to begin.
    I will just say here that if human minds are in part non-corporal because it is able to contemplate itself and think abstractly, etc., then what about different qualities of human minds? Does the mind of an infant have this property? A young child? Do the mentally retarded who do not contemplate and think abstractly have non-corporal extensions of their minds? Do these lesser minds not go to heaven because their ability to reason and contemplate is not up to snuff?

    Hey, if this extended mind gives us a ticket to heaven, what happens to it (and our prospects for heaven) when we sleep? Does the non-corporal mind vanish? How about when we go under anesthesia? If we die under anesthesia while our extended and non-corporal mind is in sleep mode do we still get to go to heaven?

    • Sastra
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Precisely. My understanding is that even back in the Middle Ages what were then called “simpletons” were often thought to be touched by God, or closer to God, or the like. Ask a Christian whether God cares more about a sharp mind than a loving heart.

  26. Steven Carr
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    If I understand Feser correctly,
    if I hit him on the head , his thoughts will become a bit woozy.

    If I hit him a bit harder on the head, he will become unconscious.

    And if I knock his head entirely off his shoulders, his thoughts will be quite unaffected.

  27. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    “… Heaven will be ‘positively teeming with fauna.'”

    What, no love behind the Pearly Gates for flora? Or is that grist for the next momentous Feser-Hart throwdown?

  28. Steven Carr
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Does Feser think a bundle of cells can conceptualise ‘tree’ or ‘pain’?

    Do aborted fetuses go to Heaven?

    • steve
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:03 am | Permalink

      I think Feser would have to say yes – aborted fetuses go to heaven, because they have a soul — sort of the pre-intellect of the never to be developed actualized intellect — so it counts and they get in. This is why it always has to be about the soul.

      This conveniently lets “pure” (unsinned) children into heaven, but still allows souled bad people to go to hell.

      In other words,soul is necessary but not the only thing required for admittance to the club.

      • steve
        Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:06 am | Permalink

        And zygotes.

        Because ensoulment happens at fertilization – at least now — it used to be quite a bit later and was “progressive” but that was before the smarter Popey types realized the problems with that — rebellion of the masses == so changed the rules for ensoulment.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:51 am | Permalink

          But they only started going to Heaven in the mid-20th century; before that they went to Limbo. Well, that was for children who die before baptism – when was it extended to zygotes?

  29. eric
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    What sort of monster god wouldn’t give this immaterial reasoning substance to all his creations? How evil. Hey kids, I have unlimited souls to give out. But even though I have this unlimited supply, only the homo sapiens kids are getting souls; all the other kids, you get squadoosh. Can’t you feel the omnibenevolence?

    • Tulse
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      It depends on what the likelihood of getting to heaven versus going to hell is. If there’s a greater than 50% chance of eternal torture, perhaps it is benevolent to not subject all the animals to that risk of infinite suffering.

      • wetherjeff
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Well If hell is a punishment of infinite magnitude creating just ONE soul destined for hell must be an act of infinite cruelty. Maybe they would argue that the infinite happiness of the heaven dwellers balances it out, but that would still leave a neutral universe – neither happy or sad…… This whole argument reminds me of an ex boss of mine who was very religious but also very intelligent. He once tried to explain to me that god knows our future in minute detail even before he has created us, but he gives us free will to choose our way in life. When I asked him to explain how that was both just and logically possible he said ‘well no one really knows how to explain it as only god knows’. You could tell by his face he knew that explanation was just silly, but his faith compelled him to say it anyway. I actually stopped debating with him in the end because he was a nice guy and I felt sorry for him when he couldn’t defend his assertions.

        • Tulse
          Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

          I always find responses of “only God knows” to be incredibly infuriating, because it explicitly undercuts the possibility of any knowledge of God. If God is such a mystery and so incomprehensible, how do they know that God is even benevolent? That God isn’t just raising humanity for food? That God isn’t a psychopath and sends everyone to hell? Can’t any answers to those questions be defeated by “but God is a mystery, right?”

        • Posted October 27, 2015 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

          To make things even more interesting…

          If there are infinite parallel universes with infinite variations of everything and everyone, then everybody goes to both heaven and hell, so it works out fair.

          One can really hurt one’s brain thinking about such things.

        • Posted October 28, 2015 at 9:18 am | Permalink

          The question of how an omnipotent God would know our actions despite having bestowed us with free will is the least of the problems Christians have when it comes to theology. This one is actually a softball; the standard response is that God knows what will happen to each of our souls, but he did not cause it to happen. It is the same as us knowing what happened in the news yesterday. We know it, but we didn’t cause it. There’s nothing logically inconsistent about this view if we parse this claim on its own. Of course, that’s the usual trick when it comes to theological debates; there might be a logically consistent explanation for some individual argument, but when one starts laying the entire body of claims out for comparison, one quickly runs into problems, the most obvious of those being that there’s absolutely no empirical evidence for any of this and conflicting claims, which are logically consistent on their own, cannot all be correct.

          • wetherjeff
            Posted October 31, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

            I don’t agree with you there. The analogy of knowing what’s in the news news doesn’t really fit as I didn’t create the news and could not be responsible for most of it. The news is also in the past, not in a future which has been determined by a perfect being. The idea that this perfect, omniscient, omnipotent god created me with the perfect foreknowledge of what I would but that I am responsible for whatever I do is is illogical, totally illogical. He is omniscient and omnipotent after all! That he can then punish me for doing something determined by him is totally unjust.

            • Posted November 2, 2015 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

              He is omniscient and omnipotent after all!

              I think you agree with me more than you think. This was my point. It’s fairly trivial to start demonstrating that other attributes that Christians give to their God are incompatible with the specific claim of “knowing but not causing.” Naturally, we need to look no further to their Uncaused Cause argument to show that they actually do think God caused everything. And I agree, this is incompatible with saying that God didn’t cause you to be eternally damned.

              But, the typical tactic is to isolate a single point: “God is omniscient.” Then, pretend that claims of omnipresence and omnipower are off the table (or claim that they aren’t relevant to the argument at hand, a favorite tactic of William Lane Craig) and say that humans causing their own fate is perfectly consistent with God being omniscient. God simply knows what you’re going to do in the same way that we know what will happen when someone drops a ball in a vacuum.

              • wetherjeff
                Posted November 4, 2015 at 10:45 am | Permalink

                In that case I think our opinions on the subject are quite similar. I also sense you aren’t too keen on that slimeball WLC, which is something we can definitely agree upon!

              • Posted November 5, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

                WLC, aside from the tone he uses in debates, which I think actually drives me more crazy than his arguments, seems to have quite a bit of processing power in his brain. The problem is there seems to be a bug where he’s gotten himself into an infinite loop; it’s too bad he’s so opposed to “actual infinities.”

  30. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    —and worst of all, for Hart—Thomists deny that there will be “puppies in paradise.”

    Given the ability of toxoplasmoa (I forget if it’s a virus or a bacterium, or even an eukaryote) to influence the mind of it’s hosts (a lovely example of evolution for reproductive fitness), the question I find slightly more interesting is “will there be toxoplasma in heaven? Or even, toxoaplasma but no consequent disease?
    I lost the will to read at that point.

    • Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      It is a prokaryotic parasite. And yes, for that reason they are plentiful in heaven. But they don’t cause disease there.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted October 28, 2015 at 3:16 am | Permalink

        Isn’t that denying them their, errrr, prokaryotic rights?
        Will no-one think of the prokaryotes?

        • Anonymous
          Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:16 am | Permalink

          This is blatant nucleusism.

        • TJR
          Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:03 am | Permalink

          Blatant nucleusism.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted October 29, 2015 at 6:58 am | Permalink

            Don’t you loop your DNA strand at me, you protozoan!

        • Posted October 28, 2015 at 7:15 am | Permalink

          The prokaryotes were lucky to be let in. Somebody had to play the organelles.

  31. noncarborundum
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    the Thomist argument about why you won’t find Fido playing a harp

    I incline to the thumbist argument, myself – i.e., not having any makes playing a harp very, very hard.

  32. Walt Jones
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of an anecdote about a society moving from polytheism to monotheism, where the wag said, “They’re approaching the correct number of gods.”

    I can’t say anything about Feser’s reasoning, but his conclusion is correct.

  33. J.Baldwin
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    “If there is a sin against life, it lies perhaps less in despairing of it than in hoping for another and evading the implacable grandeur of the one we have.” – Albert Camus

  34. eric
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    This is a quibble, but Feser also says this:

    For example, it is very easy to conceptualize or understand the difference between a crowd of 1,203 people, a crowd of 1,554 people, and a crowd of 2,008 people. But it is impossible to form a mental image of a crowd of 1,203 people which is clearly and distinctly different from an image of a crowd of 1,554 or 2,008 people.

    No, its quite easy. First, you picture a group of 300 people. For the first number, you form a mental image of four such crowds and a few extra. The second number is a mental image of five such crowds plus a quarter of the “3”. The third group is a mental image of six groups plus the “30” from a seventh. Easy peasy.

    This is why experimentation and science moves forwards while theology does not. Folks like Feser never think about how to test their ideas. They never say to themselves “how could I prove my idea wrong?” Because while direct evidence of God may not be around, even many of their abstract ideas can be tested…and fail.

    • steve
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:11 am | Permalink

      Excellent Eric!

  35. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Although I find theologians debating one another over who goes to a place that we have no evidence exists amusing and although I find it somewhat irksome that these people still hold to dualism when there is substantial evidence that we are no more than our meat, chemistry and electrical impulses, these foolish beliefs have caused much suffering for animals over the millennia. If humans are placed above all the other animals, we tend to consider their welfare as inconsequential.

    • eric
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      I suspect that that’s what Hart was driving to by accusing them of being Cartesians. I haven’t read his initial article to which this was a reply, but I bet he wasn’t claiming they believed everything Cartesians believed; I bet he was trying to make the point that Thomism, like Cartesianism, relegates animals to a lesser status that then socially could quite naturally lead to abuse.

      • Sastra
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Hart’s more or less accusing Feser of being one of those reductive materialist atheists when it comes to cute animals.

  36. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I never knew grown ups talked about this stuff. Thought it was just second-graders in parochial school, at recess when it was too rainy to get out on the playground.

  37. reasonshark
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    One of the odder things about Feser’s stance is that he implicitly claims the moral status of a species – i.e. its license to an afterlife – rests on its ability to conceptualize. And yet he seems totally – almost defiantly – incurious as to how this faculty actually works, to the point that he assumes no “physicalist” mind science can touch it. It’s a bizarrely unintellectual way of making a point in favour of intellectuality; wrapping it up in mystification and mysticism and then carrying on as if nothing arbitrary or presumptuous has taken place.

    Has Feser never once wondered how conceptualization actually works? Indeed, how many abstract modes of thought work? Has it never occurred to him that a brain capable of turning sodium ion waves into raw visceral sights, sounds, senses, and smells is a pretty versatile thing and not to be dismissed lightly? Indeed, has it occurred to him that a unified sense of “conceptualization” lumps in some pretty disparate phenomena, from recognizing an uncle to inducing where hidden money is to imagining the next dentist appointment to reasoning mathematically? He seems so keen to lay claim to this “rational” ability as a supernatural manifestation that one would wonder if he’s even aware of the progress of mind sciences in understanding how brains interpret sensory data.

    Nope. It’s “‘goddidit’ in the gaps” yet again. How irrational.

    • reasonshark
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      “inducing where hidden money is”

      Darn it. I meant “DEDUCING where hidden money is”

  38. Geoff Toscano
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I occasionally visit Feser’s blog, but find my stomach turning within minutes. He’s vitriolic in his attacks on ‘new’ atheists, especially Jerry, and I can’t help but think it’s because he realises his whole world view is under threat from a form of reason with which he can’t cope. He constantly whines on about how naive they are, and incapable of understanding proper theological arguments.

    Then he posts ludicrous nonsense such as this about animals and heaven. Like all highly deluded people he has no idea as to just how ridiculous he’s become.

    • Posted October 28, 2015 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      incapable of understanding proper theological arguments

      Proper is right up their with grave on the list of words that drive me absolutely nuts within Catholic Theology.

  39. Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    And both Feser and Hart are good at that, with Feser throwing in his patented requirement that one must read all of Thomas Aquinas (the founder of “Thomism”), study many other philosophers, and especially read Feser’s own books and articles before one can even have a say in this issue.

    Oh yes, this is a concise but 100% complete summary of every piece of his writing I had the stomach to read so far.

    He is the master of the argument from authority, which comes in three varieties:

    * “Aquinas said X, therefore X is true”,
    * “the scholastics said X, therefore X is true”, and
    * “I said X in a book that you can buy, therefore X is true, also buy that book!”

    I guess in some circles this is considered deep.

    • Vaal
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      Alex,

      To be fair, Feser does not argue like you’ve described. He thinks much of what Aquinas and the scholastics argued is true…but he thinks so because of the arguments, and he produces arguments for accepting the conclusions.

      I don’t think Jerry implied Feser argues in that manner either – more accurately that Feser will tend to accuse most people, certainly New Atheists, of not understanding the Thomistic arguments. And that New Atheists should at least understand the arguments before criticizing them.

      The problem is, I find with Feser and crew, is that any and all disagreement will be cast as “you’re not understanding the Thomistic arguments.” After all, if you DID, you’d agree with them!

      That, btw, is not a hard mind-set to fall in to for anyone. I’ve fallen into it myself.

  40. Macha
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Does this mean that mosquitoes get to go to heaven?

    Dammit.

    • Doug
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      Maybe their Heaven is our Hell.

  41. Anonymous
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    I enjoy some aspects of Edward Feser’s blog. But when he starts to elucidate about philosophy and theology, it’s really amazing to see the difference between philosophy and science (at least how people like Feser do it).

    The arm-chair theorizing just runs amok.
    It starts with an inference from some example of our experience “Well, given experience “A”, if I think about it, it seems to imply B. Let’s think this through.
    Yes, that really DOES make sense. But now then, thinking further about B, what would that imply? …well, yes it implies C doesn’t it? Now that we’ve established C, what can we get from that? It just doesn’t seem possible we can get anything other than D from C, so now we are clear on that, what follows from accepting D?….”

    And on and on. Each step just makes *so much sense* to the philosopher, from one to the other, that it *seems* like the unshakable basis on which to posit the next step.

    And, especially when it comes to describing the supernatural order, you can see just how far the armchair theorizing leads, off into it’s own world.

    Where science you try to test each step of the way, philosophers like Feser seem to feel one can uncover vast realms of information, inferring “things that exist and their properties” sitting in his den.
    And what is amazing is the confidence these folks can have in their elaborately inferred worlds. Why, since it’s all based on necessary inferences, the supernatural beliefs are more sure than anything you can find in science!!!

    As Jerry points out often enough, the type of bizarre theological conversation you see between Feser and Hart are what you see when
    there’s no way to test any of their claims.
    It’s indistinguishable from a battle of imaginations.

  42. Vaal
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    (Aaagh, so used to this site automatically recognizing me. I think I just sent another “anonymous” post. Trying again…)

    I enjoy some aspects of Edward Feser’s blog. But when he starts to elucidate about philosophy and theology, it’s really amazing to see the difference between philosophy and science (at least how people like Feser do it).

    The arm-chair theorizing just runs amok.
    It starts with an inference from some example of our experience “Well, given experience “A”, if I think about it, it seems to imply B. Let’s think this through.
    Yes, that really DOES make sense. But now then, thinking further about B, what would that imply? …well, yes it implies C doesn’t it? Now that we’ve established C, what can we get from that? It just doesn’t seem possible we can get anything other than D from C, so now we are clear on that, what follows from accepting D?….”

    And on and on. Each step just makes *so much sense* to the philosopher, from one to the other, that it *seems* like the unshakable basis on which to posit the next step.

    And, especially when it comes to describing the supernatural order, you can see just how far the armchair theorizing leads, off into it’s own world.

    Where science you try to test each step of the way, philosophers like Feser seem to feel one can uncover vast realms of information, inferring “things that exist and their properties” sitting in his den.
    And what is amazing is the confidence these folks can have in their elaborately inferred worlds. Why, since it’s all based on necessary inferences, the supernatural beliefs are more sure than anything you can find in science!!!

    As Jerry points out often enough, the type of bizarre theological conversation you see between Feser and Hart are what you see when
    there’s no way to test any of their claims.
    It’s indistinguishable from a battle of imaginations.

    • Vaal
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      FWIW…

      I just finished engaging some of the Feser crowd in his comments section, over Feser’s recent post criticizing Jerry. I enjoyed the back and forth, the folks there are good people.

      Ultimately we were led into debating whether classical theistic arguments actually DO rescue specific Christian Miracle claims from the critique of New Atheists.

      I pointed out that even if you accept from classical theism that a God exists who COULD intervene and do miracles, that tells you nothing about even IF or HOW God would do so.
      And that if you say God sustains all contingent things (e.g. the natural order) then all that does is change our empirical test results to “We are testing nature” to “we are testing God’s nature.” In other words, every experiment showing mass attracts supports the conclusion that “it is God’s nature to sustain the attraction of mass” making the odds pretty much indistinguishable from just “it is the nature of mass to attract, ” and giving you the same probabilities of something falling to the ground either way. Hence….nothing about adding “God exists” raises the probabilities of specific miracles, or thwarts our empirical inferences. Therefore, any claim of someone being raised from the dead remains ridiculously improbable, given our empirical expectations.

      The best I could get from them was “But if we establish God exists it raises the probability of a miracle from zero to non-zero. So it’s just silly to think classical theism is deeply pertinent to Christianity!”

      I pointed out that’s like triumphantly saying “because I bought a lottery ticket I’ve moved my chances of winning from zero to non-zero” as if that provided rational grounds for the leap to an incredibly improbable claim: “and therefore I’ll win the lottery!”
      Accepting the first proposition leaves one far from establishing the other.

      Of course, this gulf between classical theism to Christian beliefs remained, IMO. Not even attempted to connect the two with argument, really. If they can keep the argument from going there, apparently that is preferred. It is fascinating how allergic some sophisticated Christians can be to actually arguing for, you know…Christianity!

      • Anonymous
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        typo correction:

        “But if we establish God exists it raises the probability of a miracle from zero to non-zero. So it’s just silly to think classical theism IS NOT deeply pertinent to Christianity!”

        • Vaal
          Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

          ^^^ which of course was me adding that correction.

          Sigh.

      • eric
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

        I’ve experienced the simpler, less academic version of that logic – someone arguing that since atheists can’t rule out the existence of God with absolute philosophical certainty (true), that makes belief in God justified (untrue).

      • ascanius
        Posted October 27, 2015 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

        But moving from the rarefied realm of their ultra-abstract ground-of-being god to the god of Abraham immediately soils them with the bronze and iron-age barbarities inherent in the Hebrew mythological world which Christianity grew from, disagreeable things like scape-goating, human blood sacrifice and ritualized cannibalism. It’s much easier to seem reasonable while wool-gathering about necessary and contingent beings than when confronting and defending the disgusting sado-masochistic, misogynistic and homophobic ideas that underlie all the Abrahamic religions and their conceptions of god.

  43. Peter_J
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    It is quite simple: heaven would not be heavenly without kitties. 😉

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      At last!

      We are down to post #44 before there is any mention of cats? What has gone WRONG with this site?

      Of course cats go to heaven. Cats are divine creatures. The ancient Egyptians knew this.

      ‘In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.’ – Terry Pratchett.

      cr

      • Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

        Cat-heaven is the bast!

        /@

      • Peter_J
        Posted October 28, 2015 at 1:57 am | Permalink

        I think cats actually run heaven, and keep the holy trinity as their staff.

  44. Randy Schenck
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    According to the info I’ve seen on philosophers those accepting or leaning toward atheism 72.8%. Accept or leaning toward theism 14.6%. Other 12.5%. The other category include deism and agnostic so upward of 86 percent are not theists. All of this may mean that these types of debates will soon be going away. That will be a good thing.

  45. Scott Draper
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I do remember a church service when I was a teen where the minister gave a sermon claiming that dogs went to Heaven, because, since Heaven was perfect, how could you be without the things that you loved?

    There are, of course, so many theological problems with this claim that one doesn’t know where to get started.

  46. Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Virginia Woolf from A Room of One’s Own:

    It would have been extremely odd, even upon this showing, had one of them suddenly written the plays of Shakespeare, I concluded, and I thought of that old gentleman, who is dead now, but was a bishop, I think, who declared that it was impossible for any woman, past, present, or to come, to have the genius of Shakespeare. . . . He also told a lady . . . that cats do not as a matter of fact go to heaven, though they have, he added, souls of a sort. How much thinking those old gentlemen used to save one! How the borders of ignorance shrank back at their approach! Cats do not go to heaven. Women cannot write the plays of Shakespeare.

  47. Dan Fromm
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Not all dogs go to heaven. Some go to Curgatory.

    On this point see Norman Corwin’s 1952 novel Dog in the sky: The authentic and unexpurgated odyssey of Runyon Jones.

    • Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      And cats to purrgatory?

      /@

      • Tim Harris
        Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:47 am | Permalink

        No, that doesn’t sound painful enough – it sounds like Heaven! I think they go to furrgatory where they are tormented by Furries… until their sins are furged.

  48. Hempenstein
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Love it! Living up to HL Mencken’s expectations:

    Of learned men, the clergy show the lowest development of professional ethics. Any pastor is free to cadge customers from the divines of rival sects, and to denounce the divines themselves as theological quacks.
    — H L Mencken, Minority Report (1956), quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

  49. Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Hart’s beef with Thomists this time around is that they deny that non-human animals possess “characteristics that are irreducibly personal,”</blockquote

    Well, this picks right up where the last (still ongoing) Feser post on this site left off. Suppose humans do have an irreducible subjective component, S, as dguller keeps contending. Where is the evidence that dogs or monkeys don’t have this component? If I understand this line of thinking correctly, the problem is that no objective model can represent, S, where S is what it’s like to be me; or, what it’s like to be any specific thing. So, if the Standard Model can’t account for S in humans, why can it account for it in dogs?

    I somehow feel that this is already going down the rabbit hole, but sometimes it’s just too tempting to resist, for reading the justifications piled on top of justifications does provide for some entertainment value.

    • Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      There’s a special place in hell for those of us who can’t properly use HTML tags…I think my point got through though…

  50. Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    So, there’s this: “Neuromodulation of group prejudice and religious belief

    we demonstrate that the pMFC mediates adjustments in adherence to political and religious ideologies. We presented participants with a reminder of death and a critique of their in-group ostensibly written by a member of an out-group, then experimentally decreased both avowed belief in God and out-group derogation by down regulating pMFC [posterior medial frontal cortex] activity via transcranial magnetic stimulation. The results provide the first evidence that group prejudice and religious belief are susceptible to targeted neuromodulation, and point to a shared cognitive mechanism underlying concrete and abstract decision processes.

    The university of York reports:

    The findings, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, reveal that people in whom the targeted brain region was temporarily shut down reported 32.8% less belief in God, angels, or heaven. They were also 28.5% more positive in their feelings toward an immigrant who criticised their country.

    Of course, religionists put quite a different spin on it:

    Reason and logic exist because the God of the Bible exists. What this study proves is not that any hijacking took place, but that a tremendous suppression is taking place: of that which must be presupposed. Without the God of the Bible, reasoning would be impossible. Thank you to Izuma and Holbrook for showing us this strong relationship between the two.

    /@

  51. keith cook + or -
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    The Muppets are not going to be happy about this kinda talk. They could probably add something quite sophisticated to the argument, make it seem a bit more real with the appropriate musical accompaniment.

    • Steven Obrebski
      Posted October 27, 2015 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      W@e had a pooch with a big tape worm. If
      pooches go to heaven do their tapeworms come along too?

  52. Steven Obrebski
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    We had a pooch with a tapeworm. If
    pooches go to heaven do their tapeworms comne along too?

  53. kelskye
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Obviously this is something that can be settled by science. All you need to do is keep track of dogs that are put down at the vet, then observe heaven to see if they turn up.

    You don’t even need to keep track of it that closely, you just need to see if there are any dogs in heaven. Then if there aren’t, observe the selection criteria used to see what it is keeping the dogs out.

    I’d think that dogs wouldn’t get to heaven because they are naughty, but I’ll wait for the experiment to make such definitive pronouncements. I wouldn’t want to be talking out of my arse…

    • Posted October 27, 2015 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      Insofar as I know, no dog has ever confessed his sins to a priest. And every dog has humped a leg or piece of furniture, which is an act intrinsically opposed to new life. Thus, all dogs are in Hell.

      Q.E.D.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:39 am | Permalink

        … every dog has humped a leg or piece of furniture …

        Looking from dog to priest, and from priest to dog, and from dog to priest again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

        • Timothy Harris
          Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:59 am | Permalink

          Was that an allusion to George Whorewell?

          • Posted October 28, 2015 at 7:24 am | Permalink

            I am *so* stealing that.

          • Posted October 28, 2015 at 7:24 am | Permalink

            I am *so* stealing that.

          • Rory
            Posted October 28, 2015 at 7:59 am | Permalink

            “Whorewell”?

            • Tim Harris
              Posted October 28, 2015 at 8:54 am | Permalink

              Yes, he wrote ‘Mandible Harm’, a sexual satire about predatory females who turn into mantises and eat their husbands. Since they are no longer human, in accordance with Thomas philosophy they don’t go to hell, but when they snuff it, they simply snuff it. Their husbands, though, depending on their spiritual standing, may go to Hell, or Purgatory, or, if they are bloody lucky, Heaven.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted October 28, 2015 at 9:14 am | Permalink

                Thomist philosophy….

            • Tim Harris
              Posted October 28, 2015 at 8:55 am | Permalink

              Yes, he wrote ‘Mandible Harm’, a sexual satire about predatory females who turn into mantises and eat their husbands. Since they are no longer human, in accordance with Thomist philosophy they don’t go to hell, but when they snuff it, they simply snuff it. Their husbands, though, depending on their spiritual standing, may go to Hell, or Purgatory, or, if they are bloody lucky, Heaven.

  54. Posted October 27, 2015 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Nina's Soap Bubble Box and commented:
    All part of the kinder, cherry picking watering down warm fuzzy appeal that predators do to groom those they prey upon to pray. religion is the original pyramid scheme.

  55. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Holy dueling philosophers!
    It has belatedly occurred to me that this whole argument definite parallels to the debate about “silicone heaven” in Red Dwarf. I especially like the last line.

  56. Joe
    Posted October 27, 2015 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    For a wonderful case of watching an animal think, google “bears climbing cliff in Big Bend N P.” You can share the young bear’s thought processes as it problem solves its way up the vertical slope.

  57. Mark Joseph
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Revelation 22:15, speaking of heaven: “Outside are the dogs…”

    Case closed! 😉

  58. Marella
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    And I have concluded that exactly 17 angels can dance on the head of a pin. It used to be 19, but MacDonalds.

  59. Posted October 28, 2015 at 2:41 am | Permalink

    Actually, Alex the parrot blows Feser’s claim that animals can’t reason or understand concepts right out of the water. Someone who occasionally has Feser’s attention should point that out to him. (Yes, that would be you, JAC. 😉 )

    • steve
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:28 am | Permalink

      That’s easy to sophisto-explain.

      The parrot does not have a soul, so Alex’s “reasoning” ability is not what is meant by “reasoning”.

      This theological (a strange combination of two words if there ever was one)philosophy stuff is just like pressing the EASY BUTTON. “That was easy”

      • Posted October 28, 2015 at 7:55 am | Permalink

        Nah, that would too obviously beg the question even for a theologian. Or so I hope. He uses the (claimed) lack of reasoning and understanding of concepts in animals as an argument for their lack of a soul. Just turning 180 degrees at the end of that argument and argue the same thing back the other way would not be the hallmark of sophistication – or even “sophistication”.

  60. barael
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    Considering the vast variety of cognitive capacity that is almost certain to exist beyond our meager planet, I find Feser’s arguments delightfully parochial.

  61. TJR
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    You mean they didn’t sort all this out at the council of Nicaea?

  62. steve
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    I think a better question for the two to pseudodebate would be:

    “Does William Lane Craig go to heaven?”

    Now that I might read.

    • phil
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:10 am | Permalink

      William Lane Craig go to heaven? That’d be hell.

  63. Anonymous
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    “All I will add is that one cannot make assertions about reality based on philosophy alone.”

    I disagree, many (especially theologians) make assertions about reality based on philosophy alone, but we don’t have take them seriously.

    That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    • phil
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:10 am | Permalink

      Oops, sorry, that was me. I forgot to check that my details were inserted.

  64. phil
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    “But unlike other animals, we can conceptualize what we perceive and feel…”

    Whoa! That’s a bold statement. What does he base it on?

    A dog might not conceptualise a tree as a plant, but it might conceptualise it as “one of those things not food” or dozens of other ways.

    He’s just making stuff up again, manure mostly.

    • Peter_J
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      To a dog, a tree falls into the concept of “tall things to pee against”. Like lamp-posts. Just because they have different concepts does not mean they have no concepts.

    • Posted October 28, 2015 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Perhaps he is considering a conversion to Mormonism,er, Arnoldism?

  65. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    A silly subject to bark up a tree, even for theologists.

    That reminded me if the follwing tweet I stumbled on from The Royal Societies meeting on major transitions in human evolution (#RTransitions):

    Lucy van Dorp ‏@LucyvanDorp 22 okt.
    “W Kimbel on transitions: “Now we must redefine tool, redefine man or accept chimpanzee as man” Louis Leakey to Jane Goodall #RStransitions”

    I think they refer to how stone tool use is associated with other, earlier hominins than Homo, throwing a span of cold water on attempts to associate the transition to Homo with anything else – so far – than a specific head and dentition form of fossil species.

    Arguably, to the best of our knowledge, chimps and bonobos are not Homo but they are “man”.

    So the better question to ask theologians to pseudodebate [thanks, steve!] is:

    Do chimps and bonobos obey their magic edicts, and if not – why not!?

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      Oops, WP embeds tw**ts too. Sorry!

      “That reminded me if the follwing tweet” – That reminded me of the following tw**t.

      “stone tool use is associated” – stone tool use is now associated.

  66. phil
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    I’ll go further. A lot of people talk about dogs (in particular) as thinking of their human companions as other dogs. I don’t have much confidence in that idea either, but surely some dogs, and cats, must conceptualise their human companions as having a special relationship with them that they frequently risk their own safety to protect said humans.

    I think some sort of conceptualisation is essential in such cases because most dogs and cats wouldn’t go out of their way to assist humans in trouble. It isn’t something innate, it is something particular about the animals and humans involved. Moreover I don’t think these instances can be written off as protecting territory, it is about protecting other individuals perceived perhaps as kin, or a member of the pack.

  67. HaggisForBrains
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    And you can produce conscious intentions to do something, like licking your lips, by stimulating certain parts of the brain.

    Hands up all of you who licked your lips.

  68. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Wait a minute – Feser says animals are conscious, feel pain, pleasure and various other qualia, but that all this is “entirely dependent on bodily organs”, whilst us humans derive our ‘higher’ intellectual capabilities from a god-mcguffin called a soul…

    If that’s his position, fine, but if qualia and consciousness of any kind, never mind emotions as crucial as pleasure and pain, can be “entirely dependent on bodily organs” doesn’t that completely undermine the theist’s argument about the irreducible nature of consciousness?

    The whole point of that argument is that there is a qualitative difference between consciousness and the matter that materialists say explains it – that consciousness is flatly impossible to explain through materialism. It doesn’t say ‘well, some of the less complex and sophisticated aspects of consciousness can be explained by reductive neuroscience, but the rest is out of bounds’…it says it’s ALL out of bounds to a material explanatory framework.

    Maybe he’s okay with ceding so much ground to materialists(I doubt it), but I suspect he just didn’t realise the implications of what he was saying there. So what’s going on Edward? Fes up.

    • rickflick
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      “but that all this is “entirely dependent on bodily organs”, whilst us humans derive our ‘higher’ intellectual capabilities from a god-mcguffin called a soul…”

      In the 18th century, thinking along these lines medical studies on dogs were considered harmless because the animals cries were without higher level interpretation(soulless). Dogs were put under the knife (no anesthetic of course) and their struggles, which looked like writhing and suffering, were thought to be only reflexes, nothing to worry about – chop away!

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted October 29, 2015 at 7:28 am | Permalink

        I always remember walking through the park in London when I was a kid, when my mum let go of my hand and ran off towards a group of men gathered over by a tree screaming her head off. I’d never seen her react like that before. I stood there watching and got a glimpse of what had shaken her up – these men had tied a dog up to a tree branch by its legs and had been beating it with sticks as we approached. I can still see it in my mind’s eye, slowly twirling in mid-air.

        I suppose you just have to believe that animals are like plants, or trees, or rocks. Then you can do what you want to them.

        • Posted October 29, 2015 at 7:58 am | Permalink

          I just cannot empathise with that way of seeing (sentient) animals in general, and especially not when it’s “man’s best friend” (not that I’m a d*g person).

          But I guess people do that and worse to other people…

          /@

          • Tim Harris
            Posted October 29, 2015 at 8:16 am | Permalink

            Well we know what humans can and do do to one another, but I should like to recommend two extraordinary films about the massacres in the Indonesia in the 1960s (aided & abetted by the UK & the US). They are directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and their titles are ‘The Act of Killing’ and ‘The Look of Silence’. They are far from being simple expressions of moral outrage, and do justice to the ethical complexity of our lives. There are even now, in Indonesia, attempts, spearheaded by the military, remnants and supporters of the killers, and Islamic groups, to prevent discussion of the massacres. They are, depressingly, having a fair bit of success.

        • rickflick
          Posted October 29, 2015 at 8:25 am | Permalink

          Was your mother successful in stopping the beating? I sure hope so.

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      Sounds like he’d argue in a similar way to the macro/micro creationism schtick. Certain aspects may be visible in animals, but the whole package could only occur blahblahblah.

      Unfortunately for him it’s equally convincing.

    • Posted October 28, 2015 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Feser does not make or agree with that argument from consciousness, that’s all.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted October 29, 2015 at 7:38 am | Permalink

        Which argument from consciousness? I quoted directly from his own writing so you’ll need to be more specific.

        He seems caught on the horns of a dilemma. He can either continue with his argument as it is, which cedes an enormous amount of ground to materialism by allowing for qualia to arise through solely physical means, or u-turn and admit that he made a boo-boo in this piece of his.

  69. Posted October 28, 2015 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    I agree that the arguments that have been made that intellect is immaterial in some way that bodily senses are not, are not convincing. But I agree with this because I have read and studied these arguments and found them wanting.

    Your supposed refutation, on the other hand, that “one cannot make assertions about reality based on philosophy alone” is quite unconvincing. You admit to not having read Feser’s arguments. So how do you know that they are “based on philosophy alone” in any way that is relevant? I would simply reject your type of argument in principle; there is no real separation, for example, between philosophical and mathematical arguments, and mathematical arguments can be quite convincing. But even if we accept your argument in principle, we cannot accept it in practice until you can say concretely what is wrong with Feser’s arguments.

    Making one such concrete refutation, Feser is quite wrong that the content of thoughts is determinate. The content of thoughts is vague, just like the content of words.

    • Posted October 28, 2015 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      But one cannot make assertions about reality based on mathematics alone!

      /@

      • Posted October 28, 2015 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        In that case I have no idea what you mean by “based on mathematics alone,” or what Coyne means by “based on philosophy alone”. The four color map theorem is a mathematical proof that you cannot color a map in certain ways. It is true of real maps, in the real world. In whatever way that depends on reality, we know enough about reality to know that the mathematics applies. In the same way we know some things about reality, and that might be enough to know that a philosophical argument applies.

        • Posted October 28, 2015 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          The four colour theorem is a theorem, not a proof.

          IIRC, the proof is only partly mathematical, but requires (computer assisted) *empirical* checking of a large number of fundamental configurations.

          /@

          • Posted October 28, 2015 at 11:01 am | Permalink

            That is correct but irrelevant. What the computer is doing is something a mathematician could do in principle, and I could have used some example where the mathematician does the whole job himself.

            • Posted October 28, 2015 at 11:17 am | Permalink

              But the theorem or proof, whatever you wish to call it here, is not saying anything about maps existing in reality. It is demonstrating that maps that do exist only need four colors to adequately demarcate regions.

              The pure mathematical part is demonstrating something about actual maps, which can be empirically verified to exist and their characteristics adhere to what is shown by the theorem. Likewise, an internally consistent philosophical argument still needs some empirical evidence along with it to give us any reasonable level of confidence about whether it applies to reality.

              • Posted October 28, 2015 at 11:28 am | Permalink

                Obviously any argument depends on some knowledge about reality. A philosophical argument that worked would depend on the knowledge of reality that everyone already has. But Coyne thinks he can dismiss an argument because it’s just philosophy, without even reading the argument. That is silly.

              • Posted October 28, 2015 at 11:39 am | Permalink

                But Coyne thinks he can dismiss an argument because it’s just philosophy, without even reading the argument.

                I have not gathered that this is Jerry’s position but he can speak for himself on that front.

                In the particular case of this silly philosophical/theological argument about dogs going to Heaven, yes I think we can dismiss it because it is pure philosophy. Until someone demonstrates the existence of Heaven (or even give a coherent explanation of what attributes Heaven has), it’s silly to argue about whether anyone or anything can go there. If I were to write a 300 page book with internally consistent philosophical arguments about what one should do when visiting New York City, Nebraska, I would not blame you for dismissing it on the grounds that I’ve failed to demonstrate such a city exists and the rest of the pure philosophy has no application to reality.

              • Posted October 28, 2015 at 11:59 am | Permalink

                Exactly – the 4 colour theorem only applies to real maps given certain assumptions and correspondence rules.

            • Posted October 28, 2015 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

              Well, of course a mathematician could do it! But she’d be actually looking at something in the real world, not using maths!

              /@

              • Posted October 29, 2015 at 7:50 am | Permalink

                No, all of the cases that need to be considered are things that can be considered mathematically. It is just that there are a lot of them; that is why a computer is used. And in any case I could have chosen Fermat’s Last Theorem. You would have an extremely difficult time explaining how that proof is empirical.

                But you have a point about “actually looking at something in the real world.” Everyone who talks is doing that, since they know the meaning of their words, and they got it from the world. Feser is doing that too: he says concrete things about human and animals that he is taking from the world. That doesn’t mean he can’t be wrong. But if he is wrong, we shouldn’t say he is wrong because “that’s just philosophy,” but by looking at the world and seeing that what he’s saying just isn’t so. As for example he says that thoughts are entirely determinate, and that’s just false. We can see that just by looking at our thoughts.

              • Posted October 29, 2015 at 8:02 am | Permalink

                What does Fermat say about reality?

                Taking from the world is one thing; testing against the world is quite another. It’s that that’s lacking from purely philosophical arguments.

                /@

    • peepuk
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      An assertion about reality is the same as a true statement about reality. Without evidence statements about reality are likely to be false; can only be true by pure luck.

      Especially philosophy can help us to obfuscate and confuse. The best philosophy defends science against the “other ways of knowing”.

      If you want reliable evidence you have to use science but even then it’s very hard to come up with a new assertion about reality.

      So Mathematics or/and philosophy alone is not enough.

      See f.i. Richard Feynman:

      “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

      See also Hitchens’s razor:

      “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

      • Posted October 28, 2015 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        I agree. You need evidence to accept something. Coyne dismisses Feser’s argument without evidence, since he admits that he has not read it. So if we should dismiss assertions made without evidence, we should dismiss Coyne’s.

        • Vaal
          Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

          entirelyuseless,

          I understand what you are trying to get across.

          But note that it was only the reference to a specific paid paper that Jerry didn’t read.
          But most of his post was a response to the arguments given by Feser to distinguish animals from humans. So it’s not like Jerry isn’t responding to Feser’s argument at all.

          Further, when it comes to dismissing Feser’s theological/philosophical arguments, Jerry has argued for why he would do so many times before.

          Essentially, on theology, there are many good reasons to dismiss it as methodologically chaotic or ill-formed.

          On Philosophy, there are good reasons to remain skeptical of *purely Philosophical Reasoning* in giving us new empirical knowledge – e.g. that things like “Gods” and “supernatural realms” exist, etc.

          If science has taught us anything, it’s that ruminating in one’s arm-chair isn’t good enough. A great many chains of reasoning can seem to make perfect sense…except that it turns out one is missing some aspect of reality one didn’t know about, making the conclusions unsound. That’s why hypothesis testing has proven so powerful: testing is a way of finding you were wrong, and hopefully finding out what it is you didn’t know when making your hypothesis.

          That isn’t to say that all knowledge is acquired through strict science. But we DO have good grounds for being skeptical of the confidence anyone has in declaring knowledge of new entities on pure philosophical grounds, that can not be tested for.

          And arguments like the one between Feser and Hart, about animals and heaven, function as a sort of real-world reductio ad absurdum of were pure philosophizing can lead.

          (BTW, I’m not anti-philosophy myself at all – I have always enjoyed philosophy).

          • Vaal
            Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

            “And arguments like the one between Feser and Hart, about animals and heaven, function as a sort of real-world reductio ad absurdum of where pure philosophizing can lead.”

            (Anything…ANYTHING for an edit function here…)

          • Posted October 29, 2015 at 7:45 am | Permalink

            I mostly agree with this. I am skeptical myself of long chains of hard-to-understand abstract reasoning, because it is easy for them to fall into subtle errors. Especially since language and thought are vague (contra Feser), there are errors that result from this vagueness which seem perfectly logical, e.g. the sorites paradox or the paradox of the liar. No one would be convinced by those things in isolation, but it is easy to slip those things or other errors into your reasoning in a hidden way.

        • Anonymous
          Posted October 28, 2015 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

          Science has no evidence for “irreducible material representations encoded in the brain”, so any defense of that can simply be dismissed with Hitchens’s razor.

          • Posted October 29, 2015 at 8:00 am | Permalink

            On the contrary, science suggests that the brain cannot actually represent anything … see Alex Roseberg’s _An Atheist’s Guide to Reality_. I don’t think I can usefully rehearse his arguments here.

            /@

  70. Jeffery
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    The final paragraph from Feser illustrates perfectly what I call, “The Sigmund Freud syndrome”- first, toss out a supposition:

    “IF human beings DO have, in addition to their bodily or corporeal activities, an activity that is essentially incorporeal—namely, intellectual activity or thought in the strict sense—”

    Next, follow that supposition with a (reasonable (if, indeed, the supposition is true) “conclusion” based upon it:

    “…then when the corporeal side of human nature is destroyed, it doesn’t follow that the human being as a whole is destroyed.”

    Then, suddenly, without any real proof or evidence, treat the supposition as if it IS true, having gotten several sentences away from the starting word, “if”:

    “There is an aspect to our nature—the intellect—that can carry on beyond the death of the body, precisely because even before death it was never entirely dependent on the body.”

    Go on to use this, “declared-true” supposition as a “fact” to explain a phenomenon:

    “This is why there is such a thing as an afterlife for human beings, as there is not for non-human animals.”

    Anyone who has read Freud’s lectures with a skeptical mind has seen this in action: he begins by begging the audience to believe his claims, then soon is treating them as fact. Once, when approached as to whether his claims shouldn’t be tested by experimentation, his reply was, “My ideas are so true and valid that they don’t REQUIRE investigation.”

  71. Posted October 28, 2015 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Silly sophisticated Christians! They don’t even realize that a definitive answer to the question of whether dogs go to heaven was provided in the Twilight Zone episode, “The Hunt,” that aired back in January, 1962. Oddly enough, to his dying day Rod Serling never commented on the question of whether cats go to heaven.

    • rickflick
      Posted October 28, 2015 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t remember that episode, so I went to Hulu. Sweet little morality play. Our protagonist makes a comment I found interesting. Referring to the hell beyond the first gate, he asks, “I wonder what sorta Tea Party goes on in there anyway.”

  72. Posted October 29, 2015 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Monkey Dance and commented:
    Huh? Your crabby ass uncle gets to go to heaven but your dog who loves with a pure loves doesn’t? It’s death match time for Catholics vs Orthodox. From the site “Why Evolution Is True ‘


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