Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ $4.49 shipping
The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism Paperback – December 10, 2010
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Pre-order today
Frequently bought together
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Feser’s book, as the title indicates, takes aim at the so called New Atheist movement, which began with Sam Harris’ book The End of Faith and culminated with Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion. A central theme of the literature of the New Atheists is that religious people are blinded by faith (which they define as the will to believe something when there is no evidence to believe something), and religion needs to be eliminated in order for society to flourish. Feser’s argument is that the so-called war between science and religion is a myth, and that in truth the war is between two rival philosophical systems: classical teleological philosophy (the philosophy of thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas) and mechanical philosophy (what we would today call naturalism and materialism). Feser argues that the latter is demonstrably false, and that the rational thing to do is to return to classical philosophy.
Chapter one of the book sets up the basics tenets that Feser will defend. Chapter two consists of a retelling of the early history of western philosophy, beginning with Thales and giving particular emphasis to the metaphysical ideas of Plato and Aristotle, showing a particular deference to the latter. Chapter 3 is arguably the best chapter of the book, because this is where Feser shows that the New Atheists (Dawkins in particular) do not understand what they are talking about when it comes to the classical arguments for God’s existence, because they do not know the difference between metaphysics and empirical science. Feser does an excellent job in explaining very abstract arguments in this chapter and makes a powerful case for them that even a naturalist like myself cannot fail to be compelled by, even if I find them faulty in the end. At any rate, Feser shows that the arguments are worth taking seriously and that many people do not understand what the arguments are really trying to say. Chapter four continues with the Aristotelian trajectory, stating that if you accept the Aristotelian/Thomistic conception of reality then you also have to accept the natural law theory of morality. I found this part questionable, since Aristotle was not a natural law theorist, but Feser makes a good case for the theory, if one already accepts the metaphysics that he sets out. I definitely agree with him that our metaphysics precedes our ethics.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, where I began to disagree with Feser was in the last quarter of his book, chapters five and six. Chapter five talks about how (according to Feser) modern philosophers abandoned rather than refuted Aristotelianism, and embraced mechanical philosophy and materialism. This is a bit of an overstatement, because Aristotelianism was not abandoned by modern philosophers; only Aristotelian causation and classification of science was abandoned. Other aspects of his philosophy (such as virtue ethics) are still defended by materialist philosophers. Aristotle sought to know what things in themselves were; or as he formulated it, what there end goal or purpose was. Modern philosophers saw this as a waste of time, and modern science looks at causal relations between objects; its nature or essence is not needed. So, while certain elements of Aristotle were abandoned, it is false to say it was abandoned completely. A good way to think about this is by comparing Newtonian physics to quantum mechanics. You can still explain gravity and velocity through Newtonian means, but that is not the complete picture of things. Newton was superseded, but not abandoned. The same can be said of Aristotle.
A considerable amount of the book is focused on eliminative materialism, which Feser defines as a brand of materialism that eliminates the mind. This is false; eliminative materialism states that folk psychology is false, not that there is no such thing as the mind. I was extremely disappointed with Feser’s caricatures of materialism, because they are similar to Dawkins’ caricatures of God. Perhaps Feser should take his own advice from time to time.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. Whether you are a theist, an agnostic, an atheist, a naturalist, a skeptic, or anything in between, you will enjoy the book. You will not agree with everything (as is the case with any book), but you will be better off for reading it and maybe question whether your own beliefs are built on as strong a foundation as you might have thought. A compelling, thoughtful read overall. Thank you Dr. Feser.
The first chapter calls the naturalism of the New Atheists "bad religion," and shows how they condemn religious faith while operating out of their own unproven beliefs, which underlie an unexamined quasi-religious faith. Naturalists claim to base their claim on science, but Feser points out that they are really appealing to a philosophy that denies formal and final causality, and other basics of Aristotle and St. Thomas. The presuppositions of this naturalist philosophy, as he will say again and again, undermines the basis of real science.
As someone who was educated a million years ago in Aristotle and St. Thomas, I found the second chapter very valuable. Feser offers a clear and very entertaining summary of Aristotelian and Scholastic philosophy, reminding me again about the meaning of realism, nominalism, and conceptualism and the way they appear today, Aristotle's metaphysics, including hylomorphism (the unity between matter and form), the meaning of potency and act, and the four causes, especially formal and final cause. Modern thinkers have mostly lost track of these things, but they provide a crucial tool in explaining reality, and their loss explains much of our purposeless confusing today.
In the third chapter, Feser takes on Dennett and Dawkins and the other New Atheists by comparing their thinking to the thinking of the Medieval philosophers. The main topic is the existence of God. This includes a discussion about First Cause, Unmoved Mover, Pure Being, and Supreme Intelligence. The author rebuts conventional thinking about formal and final causality, helping us understand what the old philosophers really taught when they used those terms.
The fourth chapter includes a discussion about the soul, Natural Law, and faith, reason, and evil. The discussion of the soul requires a good understanding of matter and form, and formal cause. I found the discussion about Natural Law unconvincing when he tried to apply it to marriage and birth control. At issue is formal cause and final cause. He laid great stress on the "form" of two sexual organs united together for the sole purpose of creating life, with a conclusion that the more children you have the better, thus fulfilling the final cause of the sexual act. I wondered why he focused on this smaller reality contained within the larger form of a marriage itself, with a larger final cause than the mere bearing of more and more children.
The fifth and sixth chapters deal with the disaster created by naturalist thinkers, whose purpose from the beginning was the destruction of the Christian world-view. This meant they had to attack ideas like substance, essence, and formal and final causality. Along the way, I was reintroduced to a term philosophers also use without an explanation: intentionality, which is directed outward toward something else and is a crucial element of final cause. He contends that an atheistic interpretation of reality began with Galileo, then went on to Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and Kant, and he goes after their philosophical ideas with gusto. He demonstrates how their thinking actually destroys science, which assumes things like causality and intentionality, which is a subtle way of saying final cause.
All in all, a good read. I would recommend it for bright students who have encountered the naturalism enshrined today in the universities, with their general disdain for religion.