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The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism Paperback – December 10, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: St. Augustines Press; First Edition, New edition, PB edition (December 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587314525
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587314520
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* New Atheists Richards Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris get their comeuppance from philosopher Feser in the spirit with which they abuse believers. “Their books stand out for their manifest ignorance” of the Western religious tradition, he says, “and for the breathtaking shallowness of their philosophical analysis of religious matters.” Far better than such no-quarters rhetoric, however, are the review of pre-Aristotelian philosophy and the summary of Aristotelian metaphysics and Thomas Aquinas’ refinements of Aristotle that make up the heart, soul, and bulk of the book. Feser chooses to argue from Aristotle because he was not arguing from any religious perspective and because Aristotle’s logic, his rationality, hasn’t been improved upon or refuted by modern philosophy. Aristotle’s proof that there is a prime mover or pure being—God—remains solid. Ignoramuses like the four horsemen of the apostasy, whose factual errors, half-truths, and mischaracterization Feser highlights with contemptuous glee, “refute” Aristotle only by changing the playing field from metaphysics to science, from philosophical realism to materialism. With energy and humor as well as transparent exposition, Feser reestablishes the unassailable superiority of classical philosophy. --Ray Olson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A thoughtful and theologically sophisticated sally into the ranks of the New Atheism. Feser has written a lively and well informed polemic against the latest crop of Village Atheists - Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, & Co. - who have provided the public with so much entertainment and so little enlightenment these past few years. This is a serious and passionately engaged challenge to the latest effort to impose a dehumanizing orthodoxy by religious illiterates." -- Roger Kimball, co-editor and publisher, The New Criterion

"Edward Feser's book is a timely wake-up call to the many people who have been seduced by the amateurish attempts at philosophy of religion found in the popular bestsellers of the `Faithless Foursome,' Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris.

"Feser shows that the so-called `New Atheism' is just the old atheism, only more irrational. But at the same time as carrying out his incisive critique of all that is bad in contemporary popular atheism, he presents an admirable 101 course in philosophy for people who care. About what? About the classical metaphysical tradition going from the best of the ancient Greeks, through the medieval philosophers, and down to the neo-Aristotelianism and neo-Thomism of today.

"Anyone who comes away from The Last Superstition thinking that potboiler atheism has anything to recommend it, or that belief in God is irrational, will not be convinced by anything. For the rest of us, the book is, to use an apposite term, a godsend. And the caustic humour peppering the book adds just the sort of spice this fraught subject needs. If the Faithless Foursome were at all interested in a serious rebuttal, they now have it." -- David Oderberg, Professor of Philosophy, University of Reading, UK

"There have been largely two types of critics of the `New Atheism.' One type grants the empiricism of the atheists and then tries to show that belief in God is consistent with it. This approach gives away the store by removing God from the realm of the knowable. The second also grants the atheists' empiricism, but argues that it leads to the detection of design in the universe and thus the existence of God. This approach gives away the store as well, by limiting knowledge to the empirically detectable. Professor Feser offers us a third approach, one that is far more effective in defeating the New Atheism. He provides persuasive arguments that show that God is knowable and that what is knowable is larger than the set of that which is empirically detectable. This is a tour de force that should be in the library of every thinking citizen, believer or unbeliever." -- Francis J. Beckwith, Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University

“New Atheists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris get their comeuppance from philosopher Feser in the spirit with which they abuse believers. ‘Their books stand out for their manifest ignorance’ of the Western religious tradition, he says, ‘and for the breathtaking shallowness of their philosophical analysis of religious matters.’ Far better than such no-quarters rhetoric, however, are the review of pre-Aristotelian philosophy and the summary of Aristotelian metaphysics and Thomas Aquinas’ refinements of Aristotle that make up the heart, soul, and bulk of the book. Feser chooses to argue from Aristotle because he was not arguing from any religious perspective and because Aristotle’s logic, his rationality, hasn’t been improved upon or refuted by modern philosophy. Aristotle’s proof that there is a prime mover or pure being – God – remains solid. Ignoramuses like the four horsemen of the apostasy, whose factual errors, half-truths, and mischaracterization Feser highlights with contemptuous glee, ‘refute’ Aristotle only by changing the playing field from metaphysics to science, from philosophical realism to materialism. With energy and humor as well as transparent exposition, Feser reestablishes the unassailable superiority of classical philosophy.” --Ray Olson, ALA Booklist, starred review, October 1, 2008

Richard Dawkins, the Oxford biologist and prominent atheist, argues in The God Delusion that belief in God is outdated. Before 1859, it was reasonable to think that life on earth had been designed.... But, Dawkins maintains, Charles Darwin changed all that. He showed that adaptations could be explained by natural selection. No appeal to an intelligent designer is required. Darwin thus made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

Professor Edward Feser argues in his brilliant new book The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism that Dawkins has it all wrong. God is not a hypothesis, to be replaced if a more satisfactory theory comes up. Quite the contrary, Feser suggests, the existence of God can be proved by rationally compelling arguments. He thinks that not only is Dawkins wrong about this but so are his fellow atheists Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, all three of whom are frequently subject to humorous and telling remarks.

Feser’s is a bold claim indeed, one very much out of philosophical fashion. In mainstream Anglo-American philosophy, the dominant position is that Hume and Kant long ago showed that the theistic proofs do not work. To overturn this verdict is a formidable task, and to accomplish it Feser needs to present a great deal of background material. The principal reason, he holds, that modern philosophers reject the theistic proofs is that, since the Enlightenment, they have accepted a truncated notion of causation. Today, philosophers think of a cause as one event, preceding another in time that brings it about. As an example, if I light a match, these philosophers would take this to mean that the event of striking the match is followed by the event of the fire’s appearance.

This departs from Aristotle’s delineation of four causes, efficient, final, formal, and material. Aristotle’s efficient cause corresponds most closely to the modern view, but even here the resemblance is not very strong. Aristotle thought efficient causation involved a substance rather than an event: I, not the event of striking the match, cause the fire.

To grasp Aristotle’s doctrine of causation, developed and extended by Thomas Aquinas and other scholastics, Feser needs to go back to Plato to explain the famous problem of universals. He argues against the view that universals are merely words or concepts in our minds. Instead, he favors the moderate realism of Aristotle and Aquinas. All this may sound abstract, but it is essential to understanding the way in which Feser thinks that God’s existence can be proved. Readers who are willing to cope with this rather difficult material will gain something else, besides being in a position to understand the theistic proofs. They will learn a great deal about the history of philosophy. I have never seen the topics that Feser discusses presented so clearly. It is an effort well worth the effort. --David Gordon, Ludwig von Mises Institute, for The American Conservative Union Foundation, Issue 120, November 19, 2008 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

The book is written in a style that directly engages the reader.
Rhett Brotherton
I strongly recommend this book for atheists, agnostics and theists interested in philsophical questions regarding God and worldviews in general.
Deya S.
I think Dr. Feser makes a solid case and soundly refutes the New Atheism from a purely philosophical basis.
adamt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

122 of 146 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Wooldridge on November 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am an atheist/agnostic, and "The Last Superstition" is the apologetics book I have recommended to several evangelical friends and relatives. Although I have several problems with Edward Feser's claims in the book, this book is far superior to those by Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, and any other book I've ever read that attempts to prove the existence of God. Edward Feser is a Roman Catholic scholar who is an expert on classical and medieval philosophy, and his point of view is a breath of fresh air when compared to fundamentalist defenses of the faith.

Feser's central argument is the Cosmological Argument (First Cause or Uncaused Cause or Unmoved Mover). For years the Cosmological Argument has been put forth by believers as the ultimate defense for the existence of God, and just as often nonbelievers have found it all too easy to discredit. Part of the problem is that both the believers and the nonbelievers (especially nonbelievers who are biologists with little understanding of philosophy) all have a weak grasp of the concept and are only aware of simplified versions of the Cosmological Argument. Fortunately Feser does not make this mistake. Feser starts with Plato's Theory of Forms. He then shows how Aristotle modified Plato's theory and came up with his version of the Cosmological Argument. Feser then traces the evolution of these ideas through Augustine and later Thomas Aquinas.

Feser's starting point is a bit questionable. I tend to think that there are major problems with Plato's Theory of Forms, but I am too ignorant of philosophy to be able to explain why I believe it is wrong.
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173 of 209 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Espen on January 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Edward Feser's The Last Superstition is a polemical work. However, this should not be surprising for two reasons. First, Feser is dealing with amounts to not mere nonsense, but nonsense on stilts. Second, Feser once wrote an essay entitled, Can Philosophy be Polemical?, pondering whether it is appropriate to engage in polemical debate over philosophical questions. In this book, Feser answers that question in the affirmative. He freely admits in the preface, "If this seems to be an angry book, that is because it is." (TLS, x) Feser regards the creed of the New Atheists as dangerous both personally and socially, and his response is écrasez l'infâme.

The Last Superstition is the book I had been wanting, not because it is a tract against the New Atheism, but because it summarizes the best arguments for an Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics in the face of modern objections. This metaphysics is presented as it developed historically, beginning with the pre-Socratics, on through Plato and Aristotle, to its full flowering among the Scholastics. Feser covers change, actuality and potency, form and matter, the four causes, arguments for the existence of God, and the rational foundations of morality.

By succinctly providing this history, Feser is providing a service to all those who have forgotten, or never truly knew what are the main features of an Aristotelian philosophy. For Feser's most damning criticism of Richard Dawkins et al. is that they have simply not bothered to do their homework. By not collecting the relevant data, they have sinned against the spirit of the science in whose name they crusade. To publish a scientific paper without any evidence would be scandalous, but is precisely the case that Feser makes against them.
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104 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Philip Dinanzio on October 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a must have for anyone interested in the debate with the new atheists, or anyone interested in the value of classical philosophy.

Ed Fesser has written a book that can be taken as a great overview of Greek philosophy and the insights of Aquinas and the Scholastics. He shows the incoherence of the "materialist-mechanistic" view which seeks to banish the existence of non-material entities such as mind and soul. He writes in a down to earth manner, always defining his terms and giving examples that are accesible to laymen interested in the subject. He brilliantly defends Aristotelian thought, showing that it is relevant and true even in the present day. He shows how the "new atheists" have misrepresented Aquinas and set up strawmen to attack.

If you want to be able to defend religion and traditional morality, the arguments that Feser presents are a Godsend. As he makes clear, there is no appeal to "faith", his entire argument is based on reason and rational inferences. I cannot praise this book too much. Read it and you will see for yourself.
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69 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Deya S. on March 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When you're going to read a book, it's a good idea to know more or less what it refers to.

Dr.Edward Feser's book The Last Superstition argues for the contemporary relevance of Aristotelian Thomistic philosophy and the worldview entailed by it. The philosophical case for it, if proved sound, would implies that atheism, materialism, naturalism, secular humanism, moral relativism, conceptualism, and other philosophical positions, doctrines, ideas or systems (and their social expressions) are absolute non-starters.

The book is NOT a detailed critical review of new atheists' specific arguments (even though Dr.Feser incidently uses somes specific ideas of new atheists like Dawkins or Hitchens to illustrate some of his points), but a positive, rigorous, philosophically brillant and erudite case for the contemporary relevance of an Aristotelian Thomistic worldview, and how the modern "overcome" of it (based mainly on misrepresentations, caricatures and, according Dr.Feser, in a philosophical agenda) has caused many philosophical, cultural and social problems.

Given I judge a book by its contents, and not by its title (or subtitle), I give the book 5 stars due its philosophical rigour, originality and clarity of exposition. Also, I do believe this book offers a good philosophical and rational case for the existence of God and, therefore, the falsity of atheism (including, but not limited to the new atheism). In this sense, the book is an important philosophical contribution for the current debate about God's existence.

I strongly recommend this book for atheists, agnostics and theists interested in philsophical questions regarding God and worldviews in general.
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