Read The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism by Edward Feser Online

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"The central contention of the "New Atheism" of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens is that the centuries-old "war between science and religion" is now over and that religion has lost. But as Edward Feser shows in The Last Superstition, there is not, and never has been, any war between science and religion at all. There has instead been a"The central contention of the "New Atheism" of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens is that the centuries-old "war between science and religion" is now over and that religion has lost. But as Edward Feser shows in The Last Superstition, there is not, and never has been, any war between science and religion at all. There has instead been a conflict between two entirely philosophical worldviews: the classical "teleological" vision of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, on which purpose or goal-directedness is as inherent a feature of the material world as mass or electric charge; and the modern "mechanical" vision of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and Hume, according to which physical reality is comprised of nothing more than purposeless, meaningless particles in motion." "This modern "mechanical" view of nature has never been proved, and its hold over the contemporary intelligentsia owes more to rhetorical sleight-of-hand and political expediency than to rational argument. For as Feser demonstrates, the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the traditional natural-law conception of morality are rationally unavoidable given the classical "teleological" philosophical world-view. Hence modern secularism crucially depends on the false insinuation that the "mechanical" philosophy has somehow been established by science." Moving beyond what he regards as the pointless and point-missing dispute between "Intelligent Design" advocates and Darwinians, Feser holds that the key to understanding the follies of the "New Atheism" lies not in quibbles over the evolutionary origins of this or that biological organ, but in a rethinking of thephilosophical presuppositions of scientific method itself back to first principles. In particular, it involves a recovery of the forgotten truths of classical philosophy. When this is accomplished, religion can be seen to be grounded firmly in reason, not blind faith. And despite its moral and intellectual pretensions, the "New Atheism" is exposed as resting on very old errors, together with an appalling degree of intellectual dishonesty, philosophical shallowness, and historical, theological, and scientific ignorance....

Title : The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism
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ISBN : 9781587314513
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 312 Pages
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The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism Reviews

  • Simcha Wood
    2019-04-28 15:04

    In the closing pages of this book, Edward Feser sums up his thesis, arguing that he has"established, (a) when rightly understood, the traditional arguments for an Aristotelian metaphysical picture of the world are powerful, (b) the modern philosophers' criticisms of that picture are no good and their own attempted replacements of it are fraught with various paradoxes and incoherencies, and (c) modern science is not only inconsistent with that metaphysical picture but at least to some extent tends to point in its direction."In acuality, however, Mr. Feser's book fails to accomplish any of the above.Mr. Feser is clearly a well-read student of philosophy, particularly with regards to the works of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. And he does deliver a lucid and passionate presentation of their metaphysical arguments. However, Feser mistakes examples of the sorts of arguments Aristotle and Aquinas use to demonstrate their arguments for proofs that these arguments in any way represent the world as it really is. Feser does not offer any defense of the Aristotelian four causes not offered by Aristotle himself and he does not make any attempt to address (or even mention) the arguments that have led subsequent thinkers to abandon this system for systems which place an emphasis on empirical observation, and material and efficient causes.Oddly, while Feser does offer, again, a lucid (if somewhat simplistic) explanation of the arguments of modern philosophy from Descartes forward, he does not specifically address their arguments for rejecting Aristotelianism other than to constantly argue that the biggest failure of modern philosophy is its rejection of Aristotelianism. He does reveal paradoxes and inconsistencies in the work of modern philosophical thought, but none which would not be familiar to anyone who has engaged in a remotely decent general study of Western philosophy. What he notably fails to do, however, is demonstrate that these paradoxes and inconsistencies can be rationally addressed by a return to a system of thought which, though he refuses to acknowledge it, is fraught with its own paradoxes and inconsistencies and which was rejected in part because it is not a serious competitor with modern scientific thought in providing an adequate and testable description of the world in which we live.Feser closes with an attempt to demonstrate that modern science still points toward an Aristotelian metaphysical system. Mr. Feser's biggest blunder here is that he mistakes teleological metaphors often loosely used to describe scientific observations, especially in texts directed towards non-scientific audiences, for the actual conclusions drawn by scientists from such observations.One of Feser's primary goals in The Last Superstition is to attempt to show that one can use reason alone to prove the existence of God. By doing so, he hopes to demonstrate, contra the so-called New Athiests (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens), that not all arguments for the existence of God and a religious worldview are based on nonsensical arguments and wishful thinking. Unfortunately, the particular argument he chooses suffers some fatal flaws, the most obvious of which is that he fails to demonstrate its necessity. That is, he fails to demonstrate that his particular metaphysical explanation (which is just Aristotle's and Aquinas's explanation) of how the universe came to be is the only explanation. He offers no argument for why we shouldn't attempt to reason out other explanations (including first causes that are simply impersonal forces) or even propose the possibility that there are metaphysical explanations which by their nature evade reason (the faith vs. reason argument adopted explicitly or implicitly by many Western religious believers).Mr. Feser also proposes that the abandonment of Aristotelianism is the source of all evil in modern Western civilization. This one-note argument is so thoroughly ahistorical it is simply not possible to deal with it seriously. The book delivers a harsh jeremiad against contemporary civilization, which Feser describes as "immoral," "corrupted," and as a "cesspit." It is in fact the sort of indictment that, if delivered by a liberal or left-leaning thinker, would be dismissed by Mr. Feser's conservative fellow-travelers as rank America bashing.Chief among the ills of modern Western civilization, according to Feser, are our tolerance for abortion and homosexuality. These and other ills are invoked by Feser as arguments for the declining morality of modern Western civilization. Clearly, Mr. Feser is unfamiliar with the history of infanticide in Greek, Roman, and medieval European societies. Another ill of modern civilization Feser laments is "crass consumerism," though he does not make it clear how this is attributable to the abandonment of Aristotelianism rather than, say, the success of capitalism and the consequent enrichment of the citizens of modern democracies who now have much more disposible income available to dispose of once the necessities of life have been taken care of by what one assumes must be non-crass consumerism.Finally, one has to address the problem of tone in this work. That the work is polemical is to be expected from a book subtitled "A Refutation of the New Atheism." This in itself would not be a problem - one can disagree with a book's politics and still find it to be, for various reasons, a worthwhile read. But Mr. Feser has chosen to adopt an excessively obnoxious tone. "Muddleheaded" is the least annoying epithets Feser applies to his opponents. When his dander is up, he is more likely to describe them as "stupid," "inane," "insane," and, of course, "immoral." Given his rejection of Hobbes' view of nature, it is somewhat ironic that Feser's book could be seen as Exhibit A in defense of Hobbes' assertion that reason is a slave of the passions.Feser defends his tone, arguing that it is necessary to counter the rhetorical force and "sex appeal" of the New Atheists. This is the "one must become a douchebag to argue with douchebags" approach to argumentation, and its hard to fathom how one can, with a straight face, argue that it is reasonable to add yet more poison to an already poisoned discourse.Of course, tone isn't all that Feser attempts to share with his opponents. While ostensibly a refutation of the New Athiests, the work is primarily a defense of a particular theology - that of conservative Catholicism informed by Scholastic philosophy. Feser shares the New Athiest's derision of religion as "wishful thinking" when it comes to liberal theologies. Similarly, he implicates Luther and Calvin (and by extension the foundation of protestant theology) in the modernist project which has resulted in the decline of Western civilization and more directly heaps on them the responsibility of the bloody religious conflicts that arose in the wake of the Protestant Reformation (this is all mentioned almost in passing, as if Feser has to let it out because he just can't help himself, though he has the restraint to avoid any elaboration of these points which would understandably alienate the numerous conservative evangelical readers he is likely counting on to drive book sales). As for Judaism and Islam, they get mentioned only to assert that their miracles are less convincing than that of the resurrection of Jesus (though how so, exactly, is never actually explained).

  • Patrick
    2019-05-22 16:00

    This book is angry and funny and smart. Parts of chapter two slow the narrative down because (as Feser notes) if you're going to defend Aristotle and the people who built best on his thought (hello, Thomas Aquinas! hello, Scholastics!), then it helps to know what Aristotle and the philosophers before him actually said and meant. There's just no getting around that. But Feser rewards the patient reader, and the result is a tour de force refutation of the "new atheists." Bottom line: You can't breeze through this book, but if you read it, you won't need to read Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, or Daniel Dennett. And as Feser makes resoundingly clear, you really didn't need to read those guys anyway, because Aristotle and Aquinas still make one hell of a tag team when what you want is an old-school philsophical beat-down of the kind that once lent greatness to Western Civilization. Down with secular materialism and reductionist mechanical views of everything under the sun! Up with final causes!

  • Quentin Crisp
    2019-05-10 14:04

    Well, I'm giving this book three stars (I still find the idea of rating books by stars, or numbers, ridiculous, but I'm not going to go into that). Readers whose experience of this book differs from mine only in that they are in sympathy with Feser's views on morality might, instead, give the book four or five stars. In other words, for me it was the moral dogma that brought the average down. To give fewer than three stars, though, would certainly be an injustice.Let's start with the essentials. Feser's thesis is that the abandonment of Aristotelian formal and final causes during the European enlightenment was not based on scientific, but on political motives, and that the changed metaphysics have created a subliminal ideology that has brought about the moral, social and philosophical decline of the west.Sounds like a fairly dry assertion? Nonetheless, it makes for a compelling read, and also a compelling case.You don't need to have a background in philosophy to read this book. It is technical (and written with both rigour and vigour), but Feser wants to reach as general an audience as is possible for such technical material. He orchestrates his material with great capability, keeps the language clear, and provides illustrations and citations with the assurance of a professional pedagogue (which, of course, he is). If anything, his awareness of a general audience leads to some of what I would regard as the flaws of the book. He need not - in my opinion - be so self-deprecating as to expect boredom in the reader for the long sections on Aristotelian causality and so on: He advises, for instance, in one place, that the reader prop open their eyes with matchsticks and drink some Red Bull. This is unnecessary, but perhaps prompted by his experiences at college.I can't hope to outline all of Feser's arguments in a brief review like this. I'll give an idea of where he's coming from, and then move on to what I particularly agreed and disagreed with.I'll start by copy-and-pasting a Goodreads comment I made just before finishing the book:"I've nearly finished this. I might write a review when I finish. I suppose inasmuch as I am not an atheist (though I don't currently embrace any other philosophical/worldview label, either), I am biased (and probably biased in other ways), but I have to say, this is about as convincing as mere words can get in utterly demolishing the entire atheist project. I should probably clarify that this really means materialist or 'mechanistic' atheists, rather than the other kind of atheists who, to paraphrase Feser, sacrifice consistency, but save their sanity."Feser is a Catholic, and specifically a Thomist, therefore he endorses and expounds a worldview based on the philosophies of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. Feser seems not to tire in pointing out that both of these philosophers are widely misunderstood, even by other philosophers. This is the third book I have read by Feser, so I'm beginning to get a pretty clear picture of Feser's thought. (Incidentally, I found his Philosophy of Mind exhilarating, his introduction to Aquinas still interesting, but more sedate, and the book under review suffers for me in that I am already familiar with much of the material from the other two books. Of the material that wasn't repeated, some of it I found problematical - the material on morality. This leaves, I think, the last two sections of the book that were substantially new to me in content without having the problematical quality of the section on morality.) In short, Aquinas's arguments for the existence of God are actually much more compelling than the misrepresentations usually trotted out by atheists (and usually also, own-foot-shootingly, by theists). Two examples of debunking myths: Aquinas's cosmological argument does not state that everything must have a cause, and therefore that the first cause must be God; Aristotle's theory of final causes (teleology) in inanimate things, does not imply that objects are conscious and aware of purpose. How do we get from tinkering with such technicalities to decimating the atheist project? Well, read the book, and find out.I think I can best give my thoughts on The Last Superstition by mention of the argument from reason. For many years, surrounded by atheists, and wondering if I must be mad because their picture of the world made no sense to me, it was a version of the argument from reason that often played in my head. I did not know this at the time. Relatively recently, reading some of the essays of C.S. Lewis, I found him duplicating, almost word for word, the thoughts that had long played in my head - to wit, an insistence on a universe that is a) entirely physical, b) entirely devoid of meaning, c) entirely devoid of free will (i.e. deterministic) is self-refuting since it necessarily implies that no one can reason and that everything we say is gibberish (a version of the "everything I say is a lie" paradox) - and recognising that Lewis had thought my thoughts before me, I became intrigued. Lewis did not call this the argument from reason, either, though. It was only on reading Feser's Philosophy of Mind, I realised that was what it was. This is more or less how I come to be reading this kind of thing. The argument from reason is among the arguments that Feser develops, and he does this very well. In this connection, the philosophers Paul and Patricia Churchland (married), who are eliminative materialists (which means they believe there is no such thing as the mind - not that the brain determines the activity of the mind, but actually that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE MIND) furnish Feser with a living reductio ad absurdum against materialism and in favour of the conclusions of the argument from reason. Let's try and put it as neatly as possible. Sooner or later, in order to be consistent, the atheist has to commit to materialism. Sooner or later, the materialist has to realise that the mind is a problem for materialism. Therefore, they have to try and prove that the mind does not exist - which is the current great battle in philosophy, and related to why Thomas Nagel, atheist philosopher, has recently been demonised by his fellow atheists - and, of course, when you prove that the mind does not exist, you might as well write a note saying, "Last human out, turn out the lights." BUT, as the argument from reason, and other arguments, show, eliminative materialism doesn't make sense. It boils down to the statement, "The mind is merely the product of the mind." And supposedly intelligent people advocate such views. That they do so is testament to their political rather than their philosophical motivations. And that is the logical conclusion of atheism - the denial of humanity. And that is why we must outgrow it.However, I differ from Feser in a number of ways, at least one of which is that I don't think there is only one alternative to atheism (which, as I have said above, is untenable). One of the most obvious, but least talked about alternatives is simply NOT TO EMBRACE ANY LABEL AT ALL AND THINK FOR YOURSELF. (Of course, the atheist cannot think for him or herself, because logically he or she must conclude there is no such thing as thought, and certainly not such a thing as free thought.) Jesus Christ, I get so frustrated sometimes at how this message never seems to sink in. Anyway...So, now I'm going to talk a bit about what I found problematical with The Last Superstition. Okay, so, we know (let's assume for a moment we agree) that western civilisation has gone downhill morally since the abandonment of Aristotelian metaphysics. What kind of moral degeneration do you think should concern us most? Wasteful use of resources in exploiting each other and our environment? Casual violence? Growing gap between the rich and the poor? No, apparently, the decline of the west is most plainly visible in our tolerance for "sodomy". I'm going to be fair here (I hope) - Feser concedes that "sodomy" is not as bad as murder (I think he says "by a long stretch", or something), and at no point does he actually talk about a penalty for it; he focuses mainly on the contention that there is no such thing as gay marriage, since by definition marriage must be between a man and a woman. This conclusion is apparently in keeping with natural law morality as based on the philosophies of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. It is not scriptural. Feser states that we can deduce such things from teleology. In other words, we can work it out logically. The telos (the final cause, or what might be called the "purpose") of sex is procreation, and therefore anything that frustrates that natural purpose must be immoral.I shall be honest. The rest of the book seems so cogent to me (and even the section on morality is written more or less seamlessly with the prevailing style) that I have wondered if I simply don't like this conclusion, and therefore refuse to accept it as a matter of will rather than intellect. There are various things to be said on this subject. One of them is that I am reading a number of other books at the same time, and among them a book called The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt, which has the interesting subtitle, "Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion". One thing that seemed noteworthy to me in reading the two books at the same time was that David Hume is pivotal to them both: for Feser he is a kind of villain-buffoon who ushered in the absurdities of the modern age, but was at least decent enough to be consistent with himself (Feser describes him as skilled at drawing mad conclusions from mad premises), whereas even any regard for consistency has now gone out the window in the modernist/postmodernist project. For Haidt, on the other hand, Hume made an accurate assertion when he said that reason is the slave of the passions. Haidt's psychological experiments apparently back this up. Haidt does appear to be a little weak on his philosophy*, though (at least as far as I've read), since the argument from reason also applies to Hume's assertion. If his assertion remains unqualified, it is self-refuting, since it cannot be a statement made from reason, but only from "passion". However, let us consider this: that Hume may be (probably is) partially right - that we may have some capacity for reason, but that it is tremendously swayed by our passions.Haidt talks of the elephant and the rider. The rider is reason/the conscious mind, and the elephant is passion/the unconscious. Haidt says that the rider serves the elephant. I imagine that Feser would dispute this, or at least assert that it is not necessarily true, but I cannot help feeling that, in the case of The Last Superstition, the anti-sodomy rhetoric is the passionate elephant in the room.Let's consider. The concepts that Feser is mainly dealing with, even in his technical rigour, are actually, what, since I was born in the seventies, I will allow myself to call mind-blowing. According to Aquinas, for instance, God is pure actuality. What does that mean? That means that in order for anything in the (contingent) world to change there must be what is actual and what is potential. Most things (that is, everything except God) are therefore a composite of the potential and actual. But God, is pure actuality. This is something that demands much meditation. Now, if you feel up to it, imagine, for a while, pure actuality. As a pointer, remind yourself that this definition of God is what has led many to assert that evil is merely a 'deprivation' - that is, a lack. In other words, a measure of nothing but the distance from God. So, we're talking about actuality also being pure goodness. So, keep imagining that. What are the first things that come into your head? Are they, by any chance, that we really must do something to stop people sodomising each other? I would be extremely surprised if they were, and I am somewhat surprised at this emphasis in Feser's case, too.The following is a note that I wrote concerning natural law as I have encountered it in Feser's work:"A thought: if we are rational animals, that means precisely that we are potentially freed from instinct (and this is why human young mature so slowly), therefore, I cannot see why our telos shouldn't be to explore what is possible as conscious beings, rather than forever following the plough of a cultural normality."The long and the short of it is this - though there are good arguments for assuming the existence of teleology, if we assume we know what the telos of each thing is in advance, are we not exhibiting great arrogance? The telos of physical things might be fixed, but does not rationality serve precisely to unfix us? I'll make a few more, perhaps unconnected, observations on the same theme. Some of these are reflections prompted by other current reading and so on (another reminder why it is good to read many books and get many different views):1. I've been listening to one of Matt Cardin's music projects recently (Daemonyx). There's a track with a sample from a film, and the sample is: "I don't think any words can explain a man's life." There's surely a resonance to this? The implication for me, in this context, is that morality is based on compassion, not on rules. Or rather, there are two kinds of morality - the law (Old Testament), and compassion (New Testament). On the one hand, Feser is talking about what he calls a level 3 or 4 God (not a man in the clouds, or even a 'personalist' God, but "pure being or existence itself"), but on the other, he seems to be representing something like William Blake's Urizen, which Wikipedia describes as "the embodiment of conventional reason and law". Let us suppose, for a moment, that to fall outside convention - outside what contributes to the known welfare of the tribe - is sinful in some way. Nonetheless, I would suggest even such sinfulness serves a purpose. Take an incident like the Isla Vista killings. This is not conclusive, but it seems to me that it was much less likely to happen if Elliot Rodger had not lived in a world of stark binaries - winner or loser. Flakey as this might sound, I think his situation might have been hugely ameliorated if he had decided to embrace the Goth lifestyle, or some other subculture - in other words, if he had had the tools to invert values, or modify them. We need this kind of flexibility. (On a side note, even the feminist response to the Isla Vista killings seems to be one that enforces conformist, normative binaries. In my opinion, Elliot Rodger should have been listening to Morrissey's 'The Youngest Was the Most Loved' and fantasising first about killing women ((he killed more men, of course)), and then about becoming famous for writing songs about killing women, and, finally, not killing any women. In other words, I strongly believe that if he had managed to embrace that within himself that both the fashionable world and the feminist world - to name but two - wished to cast into the outer void, he would have had a better chance of controlling his urges and being creative rather than destructive.) Of course, 'the law' in moral terms is another way of enforcing these strict binaries. But human society has surely (?) never been that comfortable. If physically we evolve through genetic mutation, then do we not evolve culturally through the spiritual mutations of various individual members of the race? And are these mutated individuals not ostracised, exiled, anathematised? Was not Jesus himself crucified by those who wished to uphold the law? 2. I've also been reading Samuel Johnson's The History of Rasselas, and this morning read the following, which seems pertinent: "... you are only one atom of the mass of humanity, and have neither such virtue nor such vice, as that you should be singled out for supernatural favours or afflictions." The context is that this advice is being given to a sage old astronomer who has come to believe he controls the weather. Read the book itself and you might interpret this, as I do, as a warning of the dangers of isolated reasoning: one begins to think that reality should conform to our thoughts rather than vice versa. Also, it is a reminder that each of us, of course, only have a tiny part of the bigger picture. Actually, that's it - I combined a lot of the observations in number 1.I seem to have come to an abrupt halt. I was also, actually, going to write about how 'love' is surely not only pragmatic and erotic, but also ludic, and waffle on a bit about Alan Watts, but I'm hungry, so I'm going to have lunch. Anyway, I hope the above gets people interested in the book, and that, if they don't check out this one, they'll check out Philosophy of Mind. *Reading a little further in The Righteous Mind, I discover that Haidt says he thinks Hume went too far. I quote: "Reason matters, of course, particularly between people, and particularly when reasons trigger new intuitions. Elephants rule, but they are neither dumb nor despotic. Intuition can be shaped by reasoning, especially when reasons are embedded in a friendly conversation or an emotionally compelling novel, movie, or news story."

  • Jby
    2019-05-15 14:54

    (New) Atheists are fighting a battle against the attempts of crazy religious people trying to influence science education (intelligent design). Ed Feser, who btw also thinks intelligent design believers are idiots, is fighting another battle with very little overlap.Feser´s battlefield is metaphysics and the supposed decline of western civilisation due to „modernist“ philosophy. Even if you accept Fesers aristotelean philosphy, what´s it got to do with religion and belief as practised by billions of humans today (going to mass, praying, etc)? For Feser it is no problem that children and peasants (his words) believe in a bearded Jehova in the sky, what counts is that they believe, because there is a religeous elite that has rational proof of the existance of god. (I note that Aquinas (Feser´s hero) required additional divine revelation , despite having figured out that god exists „rationally“. ) Feser compares this to the fact that most people don´t really understand E=mc2, but accept that experts exist who do. true, but imagine what people would say if Einstein had told men into which human orifice they must (!) ejaculate. When Feser applies his thinking to the real world things get ugly fast. Feser trys to earn some brownie points with right wing america by giving philosophical support for „pro-lifers“ and the hatred of homosexuals. He conveniantly forgets to add that the USA itself must be an abomination in his world view (born philosphically of the modernist enlightenment). Islam and Judaism are inferior to Roman Catholicism, Protestantism is also pretty bad because according to Ed Feser, they started the downfall of the west by giving religion a bad name (thirty years war etc.)Feser states emphatically that modern life (abortion, homos & divorce (*sigh*) is immoral unless his good old values are reinstated, because there can be no (and Feser means no) morals in the absence of god. All I can say to that is that the middle ages were way more immoral than today, homosexuality existed then as now, etc. …As for the general harshness of the book, where exactly did Jesus say that it´s ok to hate people you don´t agree with?To sum it all up, the book isn´t quite what it pretends to be (a refutation of new atheism), but makes for fun dinner party conversation material for atheists and theists alike.

  • Nefficus
    2019-05-24 14:53

    Ed Feser is perhaps the most entertaining philosopher you can read today. With humor and a take-no-prisoners style that is as polemic as the "new atheists" he is refuting, Feser takes down the scientists-wanna-be-philosophers of the day in The Last Superstition. Along the way, you are treated to an excellent overview of philosophy and an understanding as to how all the modern philosophies - whether scientism, materialism, nominalism, conceptualism, or dualism - fail to hold up to serious logical scrutiny, while the perennial philosophy of Aristotle and the Scholastics still holds fast as the best metaphysical view to be proposed. Feser is one smart guy; in fact he is so erudite that I would advise multiple readings of his work to cement understanding, as parts of his discussion can become pretty abstract and somewhat difficult. I intend to return to "The Last Superstition" with joy in the future. What detracts from "The Last Superstition"? Paradoxically, the entertaining and polemic style that I lauded at the beginning is perhaps also somewhat of a weakness. I enjoy strong argument, but at times Feser breaks a little far to the point of being uncharitable to his adversaries, which is unfortunate because it makes it difficult to use this book to pass on to your atheist friends...I fear they would be a little too turned off by some over-the-top insults. Secondly, there are too many instances of the term "more on this later." The author has a tendency to get ahead of himself and then continually promise that the thought will be expounded later (a promise which is at least kept). This is probably more of an editorial fault than that of the author...a good editor would catch and correct. But these are just minor issues that don't take anything away from my strong recommendation of this book to any lay student of philosophy or those looking for a definitive, and intellectually sound, refutation of the new atheists.Well done Mr. Feser. I also strongly recommend Feser's book on Aquinas. I haven't read his "Philosophy of Mind" but plan to get to it soon.

  • Fr. Ryan Humphries
    2019-05-24 18:03

    An astounding and philosophically dense work that is really readable by anyone. Dr. Feser cuts to the heart of the collapse of western morality and culture. This is no easy read but it's totally worth it.

  • Kit A.
    2019-05-09 16:58

    just an awful, hateful piece of trash. how does this stuff get published?

  • Lauren Sheil
    2019-05-14 14:17

    Ever since I started tweeting and blogging my thoughts on economics, politics and religion I’ve noticed that there are a few topics that always get a strong reaction, no matter when I post them. Usually these reactions come from complete strangers who I believe are trolling twitter for key words so they can jump down the throat of anyone they disagree with.Case in point, a couple of weeks ago I posted a quote from a book I’d been reading about the philosophical history of the atheist position and how many of the so called modern atheists aren’t being true to their own origins and are misinterpreting or simply ignoring the early philosophers position on theism. Even if early philosophers like Plato and Aristotle don’t lead directly to an Abrahamic (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) mono-theism they at least leave the door open for a singular cause to the universe, which in turn leads rationally to a mono-theistic god like essence. Nothing is more offensive to an atheist apparently than to point out that some of their great heroes where essentially theists. Here’s what I tweeted; “Atheists tend to read only each other’s books and not the work of the religious thinkers they are supposedly refuting.” – Edward Feser “The Last Superstition”That simple statement prompted a flood of criticism from a few atheist trollers not because they claimed to have actually read any religious writing but because they thought the term “religious thinker” was an oxymoron. How ridiculously arrogant can anyone be? Remove the word religious from in front of thinker and you have essentially removed millennia of history from the development of human society. It wasn’t until 500 years ago, at the earliest, that any contributions to science were made by anyone that did not receive significant support from religious institutions. And I’m not just talking about the Catholic Church here; Muslim scientists in the middle-ages were in many cases far out stripping their Christian counterparts to the west. Yes the church did seek to suppress some ideas that were threatening, everybody does, just look at the endless debate over global warming, but the truth always wins out and the church now acknowledges their mistake. The fact of the matter is that modern atheist thought is standing on the shoulders of theists who pointed to a singular cause of the universe. No amount of ignorance or attempts at re-writing history is going to change that. You can search for a scientific explanation all you want but at the end of the day the scientific method, which depending on who you talk to was either developed by Ibn Alhazan a Muslim or Galileo Galilei a Catholic, is based on cause and effect and therefore always leads back to a singular or final cause. And final cause in turn leaves the door open to a rationally defensible mono-theistic philosophy. You can put air quotes around the term “religious thinker” all you want, history doesn’t lie.

  • Cris
    2019-05-13 21:02

    I won't say 'Don't give this to an atheist you like!", but I will caution that no one likes to hear themselves described as lacking some important piece of education. Few people are that humble. Feser says he is writing to set the record straight about philosophy's debt to aristotelianism. He does that in the most concise, no non-sense way I have ever seen. Nothing new, just really clear exposition. That he writes with anger, he is honest about. Years of hearing people who do not have a good grasp of first causes rant about there being no proof for causality or God, wether economists or plumbers, will do that to any of us. Take this polemic's popularity as a cultural expression of frustration. Also, note the excellent news he provides from his field, few true philosophy professors adopt a full sense of despair about the ability of man to know anything, he says. This is good. Amused by his historical perspectives about politics in last half century, but also took them with a huge grain of salt. (Like listening to my cranky friends!) I will go and read about McCarthyism more in depth before I take his word on it. I jotted down names from Feser's old life wherein he cites atheists who openly struggled with doubts, who valued the clarity of the aristotelian system and who admired the accomplished minds of their religious friends. The almost 90-year-old philosopher who finally became convicted of a first cause, Anthony Flew, was specially awe-inspiring for his courage. Feser is on the fast track as a popularizer of Aristotle and maybe shedding new light on Aquinas, I hear the rumor mill say. In the meantime, I would suggest to Feser what I was told once by a German cannon lawyer: our understanding is a gift, not our doing, therefore we cannot be angry about others. We can't be like the nun with big feet.

  • Melissa Stebbins
    2019-05-14 20:09

    Billed as a refutation of the New Atheists, this book is much more. A back to basics explanation of the philosophy of Aristotle and Aquinas, he explains the metaphysics at a level that is perfect for people with no training in philosophy beginning with the questions these philosophers were attempting to provide an answer to. I must confess, they were questions that I hadn't really thought much about. Feser takes you from the initial question - How is change possible, to an explanation of act and potentiality, the four causes and how if we accept teleology as an inherent part of nature that God is rationally unavoidable. A lot to think about in this book and I'll definitely be extending my reading into A-T philosophy in the future. One word a caution. This book is highly polemic and while I found that mildly entertaining, it is probably not the best tactic for winning people to your position. Yes the Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens collective are shallow and ridiculous at times but sometimes a good argument can be lost in the insult trading.

  • Denise
    2019-05-15 20:54

    Edward Feser is like the college professor you always dreamed of having--irreverent to the cool kids who like to hear themselves talk and exciting reverence to the Chestertonian magic of reality. Dr. Feser coaches you through the more technical aspects of scholastic philosophy, and his humor throughout makes it worthwhile. He presents Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas in a way that puts my Christian-affiliated college philosophy course to shame. Even if you're not interested in the rhetoric of the New Atheists, this book will show that we as modern society have already unthinkingly conceded their points.Come revisit (and maybe like me discover for the first time) the substantive thought that makes up ancient and medieval scholarship. Here is a sample where he addresses the problem of evil: "The only way the atheist can make it plausible to say that nothing could outweigh Aushwitz, etc., is if he supposes that there is no God and thus no beatific vision. But if he's supposing that there is no God, then in presenting his argument from evil he's simply arguing in a circle, assuming the very thing he's trying to prove, and thus not proving it at all. In effect he's saying: 'There is no God, because look at all this suffering that couldn't possibly be outweighed by any good. How do I know there's no good that could outweigh it? Oh, because there is no God.' If you think that's a good argument, you need a logic course. "Note also the double standard implied to the extent that the atheist rests his case on the claim that he 'can't imagine' anything that might outweigh the sufferings of this life. For if some creationist says he 'can't imagine' how an eyeball could have evolved (or whatever), Dawkins and Co. reply, quite reasonably, that the limits of one person's imagination don't necessarily correspond to the limits of reality. Yet when the shoe is on the other foot, we're supposed to take the limits of Dawkin's imagination, or Hitchens's, as an infallible guide to what an infinite First Cause or Supreme "Intelligence is capable of doing vis-a-vis bringing good out of evil. If anything, the limits of our imagination are far, far less relevant to understanding what a First Cause who is Being Itself and the Supreme Intelligence might bring about by way of good for a creature with an immortal soul than they are relevant to understanding the potentials inherent in a finite impersonal process like natural selection operating on finite living things. "The bottom line is this. Reason itself, as I have argued, shows us that there is a First Cause who is Being Itself, Goodness Itself, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all the rest, and it also shows us that we have immortal souls. Hence reason tells us that there is a God who created us for a destiny beyond this life and who is fully capable of guaranteeing that the good we attain in the next life outweighs the evil we suffer in this one to such an extent that the latter, however awful from our present point of view, will come to seem "not worth comparing" to the former, and indeed if anything will even by seen to have been worth having gone through from the point of view of eternity. And therefore, reason itself tells us that there is simply no reason to believe that even the worst possible sufferings of this life constitute any evidence whatsoever against the existence of God. Nevertheless, since we are finite beings, it can be very hard to keep this in mind when faced with severe suffering. The arguments of philosophers and theologians, however logically impeccable, seem cruelly abstract and cold when compared to the agony of parents of a raped and murdered child. But then, reason is abstract and cold. Atheists are always telling us how we need soberly to follow where it leads us, even if it were to break our hearts by telling us that there is no hope for cosmic justice, no hope for seeing lost loved ones ever again, no hope for a life beyond this one. Then, when a Thomas Aquinas reassures us that in fact no matter how bad things get in this life, reason assures us that God can set it right, they feign outrage at such cold-hearted logicality. Some people just can't take yes for an answer. "In any event, it is precisely because of the abstraction and coldness of reason that a kind of faith is needed where evil is concerned. Not because faith is emotional. Faith is not emotional; it is rather an act of the will. And again, not because faith contradicts reason, for it doesn't. Rather, faith in God in the face of evil is nothing less than the will to follow reason's lead when emotion might incline us to doubt. The intensity of the pain one feels can make him want to shake his fist at God, like Job. Yet reason says that the pain is part of an overall plan which we cannot yet fathom, but one in which God can bring out of that pain a good compared to which it will pale in significance. Hence reason tells us: have faith in God. We will not always be able to understand what that plan is, or how this or that particular instance of suffering fits into it. We have some general clues here and there--for instance, the fact that certain goods, like patience, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice, cannot be had without certain evils. But we don't know the details. And yet, why should we expect to know them? If there is a God of the sort the arguments I've described point to, and if the soul's ultimate destiny surpasses the cares of this life in the way that immortality implies, then these matters are so far beyond our ordinary experience that it would be extremely surprising if we could fully understand them. Again, the atheist will of course dismiss all of this as falsehood added to falsehood. The point, though, is that he cannot do so and at the same time have his 'argument from evil' against the existence of God, for if that argument assumes that all these claims are false, then it simply begs the question against the theist, and thus fails to prove anything. It is all attitude, and no substance."

  • Arensb
    2019-05-22 14:18

    (I have a longer, more detailed review elsewhere.)I've added a star for the chapters that give an overview of Plato's, Aristotle's, and Aquinas's ideas. Those are reasonably clear and, I assume, given Feser's background, complete summary of Plato's theory of Forms and the ideas that follow from that.Where the book falls down, unfortunately, is everywhere else. The book is subtitled "A Refutation of the New Atheism", but Feser can't be bothered addressing, or even quoting, the claims made by the "New Atheist" authors whom he quotes. He seems to use terms like "atheist", "secularist", and "liberal" more or less interchangeably; presumably it's all one big ball of badness to Feser. Obviously, if he managed to demonstrate that there are one or more gods, that would be a powerful refutation of atheism, but he falls woefully short in this task.Feser misses the old days, when Aquinas was at the cutting edge of philosophy, atheists had the good taste to keep their beliefs to themselves, or at least only mentioned them when they were trying to shock people at cocktail parties, and homosexuals didn't go around demanding rights.While Plato's theory of Forms, which forms the basis of Feser's philosophy, may have internal consistency, I find it impossible to apply to the real world. It starts out well: if we look at triangles, say, we find that it's impossible to draw a perfect triangle: maybe the lines aren't quite straight, or the corners don't meet, or at any rate the lines will have non-zero thickness. But it still makes sense to talk about triangularity, the thing that all triangles have in common.But as far as I can tell, Feser thinks that this applies to everything; that everything has a Form or essence -- humans, justice, marriage, and so on -- and that everything either instantiates a Form or it doesn't. Either X is a dog, or X is not a dog, with no in-between or ambiguity. This, of course, is contradicted by just about every gray area in existence, to say nothing of evolution, which predicts that we shouldn't expect to see any bright line between, say, non-mammalian therapsids and true mammals.Unfortunately, Feser never tells us how to figure out which Forms something participates in. Take my iPad Air 2, for instance: is it an instance of the Rectangle Form? The Electronics Form? The iOS-Devices Form? The Infuenced-By-Steve-Jobs Form? How many Forms are there? Is it a fixed number, or can we define them into existence, or what? I think Feser thinks there's a fixed number of immutable Forms, but he doesn't answer these questions directly.This pigeonholing leads Feser to conclusions like that same-sex marriage is an impossibility because, well, that's just not what marriage is, know what I mean? (Gay rights feature prominently in this book, right from the first paragraph. Feser really doesn't like homosexuality.)Along the way, Feser takes the idea of existence and calls it God. He employs some non-sequiturs and leaps of logic to conclude that existence has many of the good properties traditionally ascribed to the God of the Bible and none of the bad ones, and that therefore it's reasonable to call this God.Feser is also big on the idea of final causes. Again, the idea isn't unreasonable: if you ask why the water in a pot is bubbling, I could tell you that the water molecules are moving so quickly that many of them are in a gaseous state; or I could tell you that it's because the stove burner is on; or I could give you the final cause, which is that I wanted a cup of tea. But Feser takes this too far, and sees final causes and ultimate purpose everywhere: the final causation or goal of the moon, for instance, is to orbit the earth. Obviously, the moon doesn't think this, or anything like that, but presumably that's why the moon is there: to orbit the Earth.On top of which, he thinks that it's wrong -- morally wrong -- to use something against its intended purpose. This allows him to argue that it's wrong to use a penis for anything other than 1) urination, 2) sex. And not just any sex: heterosexual sex with a woman, culminating in ejaculation inside a vagina.Unfortunately, Feser doesn't tell us how to figure out what an object's intended (and moral) purposes are. It's left up to his intuition.Finally, I should mention the constant sniping and insults. Dawkins and Hitchens, he tells us, are ignorant, while Harris and Dennett are "disgraceful". "[T]here are no greater vulgarians" than secularists. And that's just Chapter 1. This wouldn't be so bad if this book were addressed only to his fan club, but he tells us that those who disagree with him "need to read it".This also undermines a possible defense of his ideas: from what I've seen of Feser's other writing, he's fond of the Courtier's Reply: if you disagree with something, it's because you haven't read the relevant twelve books on some abstruse subject. But if that were the case, he wouldn't have wasted so much of his 300-some pages in insults and snark.In short, this book doesn't contain anything that'll persuade anyone who doesn't already agree with Feser. Rather, like so many works of apologetics, its purpose is to reassure believers that it's okay to believe what they believe. Feser's reasoning is so bad it's laughable, and in the end, trying to defend medieval ideas about forms and essences against 21st-century science, he sounds like someone defending the theory of Humours at a biochemistry conference.

  • Manuel
    2019-05-20 22:16

    I'm really having a hard time rating this book. I was excited at the beginning because of the conviction in Feser's words that he would definitively demolish the atheist position. Since it had been a very long while when I last touched on this subject of god, I thought maybe I had missed something back in the day when I fell out with religion, and who doesn’t love a good challenge? However, the excitement soon turned into annoyance. It’s not a refutation of atheism per se, but of New Atheism (maybe I should have paid more attention to the title of the book). It’s easy to understand the contempt that Feser has for the New Atheists (a movement that I've always considered intellectually bankrupt), for they certainly don’t shy away from mocking and ridiculing their opponents in some of the grossest ways possible. I also understand Feser wanting to state his case with the conviction displayed by his adversaries. However, for someone who claims to be a better informed philosopher than the four horsemen combined, and a Catholic one at that, I expected more. More humility, for instance. Because of the dogmatic and angry tone of the book, Feser, like Dawkins in The God Delusion, will manage only to preach to the choir.The crash course in ancient philosophy was fine as far as it goes, though I myself didn’t learn anything new. The first of Aquinas’s proofs started off well, too, but as soon as the concept of “simultaneity” appeared, the alarms started to go off in my head. Since Einstein, we know that simultaneity is a matter of a preferred frame of reference, but Feser makes no mention of Einstein or his theories. The second proof manages to establish the necessity of “something” without which everything would cease to exist. But when Feser wants to identify this something with the first cause, he once again overlooks many potential objections (e.g. couldn’t a simple numerical distinction suffice to differentiate the two?). After that, Feser attributes all the potentialities of human beings, such as reason, will, consciousness, etc. to that something which is also a first cause, with the justification that whatever is in the effect is also in the cause. But the reasoning goes too fast, and leaves too much to be desired.Confident that he has proved the existence of God, Feser goes on to try to justify traditional morality, and here my annoyance becomes anger. The reason is the same: he passes over many objections, other points of view, and he states his conclusions in very definitive words, sounding more like a priest than a philosopher. At one point, Feser claims that since procreation is the primary function of sex, then knowingly marrying an infertile partner as a means to avoid procreating is a perversion of nature (!!). It’s at this point that Feser loses me completely, in terms of sympathy.The third part of the book, concerned with the consequences of the mechanistic or materialistic (Feser, annoyingly writes “mechanistic-cum-materialistic” too many times, as if trying to show off his erudition) view of modern philosophy, the arguments presented are less objectionable. I agree with him, for example, that the purely mechanistic view of matter lead, strangely, to Cartesian dualism. I also agree with him about the futility of reductive materialism. This part saves the book from a 1 star rating. Still, to speak repeatedly of modern philosophy as an "abandonment" of Aristotelianism, and to argue again and again that the solution to modern problems is a "return" to Aristotelianism is really unbecoming of a philosopher.Like Dawkins's famous book, Feser’s “The Last Superstition” reads like a long blog post. The language of this book is very inelegant, half the jokes included fall flat, and the scorn heaped on modern philosophy and the New Atheists is a definite turn off. Feser was not kidding when he admitted at the beginning that this book was an angry book. Instead of going on and on about how Dawkins and Dennett are this or that, Feser should have focused more on making the case for theism air-tight. What a tremendous waste.I would recommend this book only as a jumping board to other, more serious books on theism. If you can stomach the strident tone, you might find something useful here.

  • Pedro Bonilla
    2019-05-08 14:53

    This book assumes Aristotle picture of causation without argument for it.The author asserts this but never proves it. He merely asserts that a mechanical view of the universe is wrong but even if he were to make the case that this view is mistaken it would not prove his view. He cites William Craig of having convinced him of the resurrection which is problematic given that Craig is wrong. I think that mixing philosophical theism with catholic views of god opens the door to scientific refutation. No where in the book does he prove that a catholic god is not a scientific question . His hatred of homosexuals is deplorable. His view of morality and arguments for it are spurious. His view of human sexuality does not engage the best science available. There are better treatments out there of Plato and Aristotle. His treatment of the problem of evil is absurd. This book treats traditional Catholicism never mentioning liberal or moderate catholic thought. A good editor could have cut a lot of the book out since it deals with right wing views of social issues not a refutation of the new atheism.

  • Foreign Grid
    2019-04-26 17:51

    If you want a book that is basically a short summary of my Ancient Phil, Medieval Phil, and Modern Phil class with an emphasis on the divine, this is the book.

  • Paul
    2019-05-08 14:12

    I tipped the scales and gave this book four over three stars.Though I'm down with employing the same kind of rhetoric against New Atheists as they use, and I am all for ridiculing them (all in certain contexts), and I was looking forward to Feser's approach, the ridicule and mockery got a bit old and boring. At times, this book read like it was meant to be something else, and then Feser (or some publisher), desiring to cash-in on the popularity of New Atheism literature, went back into this book and just threw in some cheap cut-downs here and there, mocking New Atheists for a few paragraphs or so, and then proceeding with the Thomism apologetic. Anyway, this isn't a big complaint for me.In this book Feser uses Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics and ethics to critique some of the claims New Atheists (or atheists, naturalists, and physicalists) have made. The biggest point he wants you to take home is that serious philosophical problems have arisen due to ignoring act and potentiality, same with teleology.He depends upon Thomistic assumptions for his case to work. Depending on how you assess the Aristotelian/Thomistic position, Feser's case will be more or less persuasive. However, regardless of your position on Thomism, Feser wants you to know that the charge by New Atheists that "Believers base their beliefs off nothing but blind faith," is downright false.Other than that, Feser gives some good criticisms of materialism, but you can get more detailed versions of the same in his philosophy of mind book, and offers some good correctives on the oft repeated claim that "God" functions as something like an explanatory hypothesis for believers. He corrects some straw men understandings of some of the traditional Thomistic arguments, and gives a decent intro to Thomism/Aristotelianism (but I suspect his forthcoming book on Aquinas will be much better for this). However, he makes some odd claims and arguments too. One example might be:"But the immaterial nature of these things entails that the intellect which grasps them must itself be immaterial as well. How so?Consider first that when we grasp the nature, essence, or form of a thing, it is necessarily one and the same form, nature, or essence that exists both in the things and in the intellect. The form of triangularity that exists in our minds when we think about triangles is the same form that exists in actual triangles themselves; the form of 'dogness' that exists in our minds when we think about dogs is the same form that exists in actual dogs; and so forth. If this weren't the case, then we just wouldn't really be thinking about triangles, dogs, and the like, since to think about these things requires grasping what they are, and what they are is determined by their essence or form. But now suppose that the mind is a material thing--some part of the brain, or whatever. Then for these forms to exist in the intellect is for the form to exist in a certain material thing. But for the form to exist in a certain material thing is just for that material thing to be the kind of thing the form is a form of; for example, for the form of 'dogness' to exist in a certain parcel of matter is just for that parcel of matter to be a dog. And in that case, if your intellect was just the same thing as some part of your brain, it follows that a part of your brain would become a dog whenever you thought about dogs. 'But that's absurd!' you say. Of course it is; that's the point. Assuming that the intellect is material leads to such absurdity; hence the intellect is not material." (Feser, The Last Superstition, p. 124). He seems to equivocate on "in" and also leaves open the conclusion that, say, persons that have died, say, St. Paul, are "in his mind" since St. Paul is simply "form" until he gets his resurrected body. And, if the identical form of Paul is on your mind, and all there is to Paul is form, then Paul is in your mind. So, Feser has the reverse problem. Materialists would have dogs in their brain, Thomsists would have people in their minds.Anyway, decent book, not earth shattering.

  • Adam Gurri
    2019-05-19 14:51

    I'm torn on whether I should give this three or four stars.The strengths of the book are very strong; if you want a crash course on the metaphysics of:-Plato-Aristotle-Aquinas-The early modern philosophersAs well as philosophy of mind, you could do a lot worse than this book. Moreover, this book brings much needed balance into public discussions of religion and atheism, faith and reason. By the end of the book most people, I think, should see how you can arrive at religion and even a religion specifically like Christianity via philosopher rather than pure leap or faith, or some such thing.But the weaknesses of the book are also very weak. Frankly it was just a bad match for me---this book is meant to stand in opposition to New Atheist books, but I find those books obnoxious, and taking on their rhetorical style just made this book obnoxious to me. If I were a Republican and Christian (or religious at all) who felt angry about the New Atheists but not sure how to proceed, this book would probably pump me up, but I am neither of those things.All in all the book came off as very arrogant, and a lot of the strongest claims---that very specifically Catholic things are deductible by _rational necessity_ rather than just plausibly and defensibly---just are not defended very well.The book accomplishes its goal; I think a reasonably open minded atheist who went in thinking there were no rational arguments for the existence of god would be convinced that, at minimum, there are several tremendous thinkers who need to be given their due in any argument against it. But I never thought that there weren't rational arguments, I simply wasn't persuaded by them. So the mix of triumphalism (for pumping up fellow believers) and antagonism (to throw down the gauntlet for nonbelievers) was very unappealing to me.Perhaps this is more my fault than the book's, given it was clear what sort of book it is from the description. But I'd read enough of Feser elsewhere that I had hoped for better.I'll stick to his non-polemical work in the future.I will say that I'm definitely going to be raiding his bibliography; he definitely provides good resources for learning more about the arguments presented in the book.

  • Rhett
    2019-05-15 21:56

    The first Atheist I engaged in argument was when I was an eighteen-year old Marine fresh out of Boot Camp. His most notable quality was the same I have found in most of the Atheists I have met in the thirty years since, smugness. While Boot Camp had prepared me for physical battle, I was ill equipped to wage a sustainable campaign against the arguments he used. I knew I was being had, I just didn’t know how. The weapons needed to engage in this particular type of battle are a grounding in classical philosophy (principally logic and metaphysics), the fundamentals of the scientific method, and a short history of modern philosophy. I consider “The Last Superstition” to be a Boot Camp for the brain. It is an intense, sometimes painful, training session from which you will emerge a more coherent thinker. It will not only equip you to engage the “New Atheist” but muddle headed thinking in general.Some reviews have complained about several of Professor Feser’s conclusions, especially those that deal with the moral realm, but like the thinkers of the past who rejected Aristotle’s metaphysics, they reject rather than refute. One might as well complain that 2+2=4. Truth is not subject to our preferences.The book is written in a style that directly engages the reader. Professor Feser is able to present abstract concepts in a manner that the uninitiated can grasp. This is not an easy read, but nothing truly worthwhile ever is and this is a truly worthwhile book to read.

  • Ryan
    2019-05-22 22:00

    Feser's book is an excellent read, not only as a malleus haereticorum against the New Atheists, but (perhaps more importantly) as an introduction to Aristotelian-Scholastic Philosophy. In the book, Feser introduces Aristotelian metaphysics, ethics, anthropology, and epistemology with the firm (and defensible) conviction that the Aristotelian model for explaining reality is fundamentally rational, and therefore all the concomitant conclusions of Christian-Medieval Civilization were rationally defensible as well, e.g. natural law, monotheism, traditional marriage. Moreover, the various issues that have arisen in the wake of the so-called "Mechanistic Philosophy" -- the mind-body problem, the problem of induction, natural rights, free will, moral relativism -- are addressed concisely and with reference to the broader philosophical scholarship as well as the early modern philosophers themselves .As with any popular book on philosophy, one finds that some arguments are truncated in placed that need to be elaborated. Also, Feser's writing style is entertaining, but occasionally grating in his snarkiness towards the princes of smarm (the New Atheists). Nevertheless, the book is a serious response to the new atheists and a thorough introduction to Aristotelian-Scholastic philosophy which everyone, especially neophytes, would do well to read.

  • Charles Curtis
    2019-05-06 15:16

    Feser's personality is in line with my own, which makes reading this book entertaining, despite the subject matter. He's a great writer and has a very firm grasp on Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics. My only complaint would be when he argues points, like the immaterial nature of the mind, he tends to rigidly repeat Thomistic categories rather than fall back on them to formulate his own argument. I think people like Moreland have done just that and it's far more powerful, even if in line with Thomistic thinking. But, that's nitpicking from someone who doesn't understand a fraction of the topic as does Feser. Great book and I highly recommend it!Oh, by the way, I also recommend it for the atheist/skeptic. Having to trod through The God Delusion, the benefits of getting inside the head of Dawkins was useful in trying to formulate where he was coming from. A skeptic will probably feel the same way about reading Feser. But I challenge you to trod through it as well. I think understanding the classic Christian positions on natural law, metaphysics and ethics would further the conversation.

  • Carl Hostetter
    2019-05-03 16:59

    Whatever one may think of the author's style (personally I find his digs at the "New Atheists" delicious), and whatever your religious views (or lack thereof) -- which are in fact irrelevant to the purpose of this book, as the author is at pains to note -- no person who is not familiar with the topics and history covered by this book can seriously be said to have been adequately educated. I do not make this claim lightly: the matter is just that important, fundamental, and far-reaching. The book is further (and inevitably) a great introduction to the fundamentals of Western philosophy and metaphysics, and thus (also inevitably) to the philosophy of science.

  • Sam Notley
    2019-05-02 14:13

    This book changed my life.

  • Benjamin Espen
    2019-05-12 16:05

    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. None of the New Atheists demonstrates any familiarity with the actual arguments of historical theist philosophers except for Rev. William Paley, who functions as a convenient whipping boy.By way of example, Feser quotes the admission of philosopher Anthony Flew in 2004 that he now believes in the existence of God despite a lifetime of argument to the contrary. Flew admitted that he had never actually considered the Aristotelian arguments for the existence of God, and was forced to admit their cogency upon doing so. Those whom Feser targets in The Last Superstition have not yet bothered to consult the texts. Feser documents this amply through quotations from the New Atheists' works.The weakest part of Feser's argument is in the section on natural law. The difficulty is not that the best contemporary formulation is not presented. The difficulty is that contemporary natural law arguments use human, homo sapiens, and person univocally. These are not just different things, they are different kinds of things. To use the Scholastic terminology, each belongs to a different genus. However, this failure leaves Feser's main argument untouched, because Aristotle and Aquinas were alike able to discern rational foundations for morality without the benefit of a modern doctrine of natural rights that makes use of equivocal terms.Feser's references are very good, providing further information for the many points which could be elaborated upon. Covering as much ground as this book does would be impossible without considering a great many complicated and subtle topics briefly. However, this is not to say that Feser does not adequately address his topic. He makes short work of the New Atheists due to the poverty of their arguments, and then briefly presents arguments that modernity is more comprehensible if one considers modern problems in light of broadly Aristotelian philosophy. In particular, many of the perennial questions of modern philosophy, such as the mind-body problem or the validity of inductive reasoning become explainable with Aristotle's more robust account of causation. Feser's task is made easier here by the latent Aristotelianism lurking in every corner of Western Civilization. We do not notice our debt to Aristotle for the same reason that fish do not feel wet.Edward Feser's The Last Superstition is a worthy introduction to the realist philosophical tradition, and is enlivened by Feser's sharp wit. Good for anyone who would like to know more about Aristotelian philosophy.

  • John Quin
    2019-05-01 18:53

    This is an important book as a response to the so called New Atheism but more on account of the fact that the book mostly ignores them and instead Dr Feser takes the opportunity to build a case for the Thomistic account of metaphysics.The upshot of all this is that if you are looking for a detailed point by point rebuttal of the arguments made by the New Atheists then there are probably better books for that task.In spite of the fact that this book is billed as a polemic I found that the the rhetorical barbs were quite sparse, at least compared to Dr Feser's piece for The American. "http://www.american.com/archive/2010/...". Still there is more than enough sting to antagonize/entertain.On to the content:The book has two hurdles for the reader, the second paragraph and the second chapter. While the second paragraph is sure to see many 'liberal' readers write the whole thing off as bigoted homophobia the second chapter might thin out the herd even more on account of the mental gymnastics required for the modern mind to grasp Thomistic thought. However the reader who persists with this book will be rewarded with a robust and detailed account of why modern philosophy has gone astray and why a return to the Aristotelian/Thomistic (A/T) view of the world will resolve many issues that plague modern philosophy. Where the New Atheists fit into all of this is that they have not only inherited all of the absurdities created by modern philosophy but are either blindly unaware of them or embrace them with open arms.I'd be lying if I claimed the I have a complete understanding of A/T after having read this book but from what I gathered Feser seems to make a strong case for this old and needlessly dis-guarded view. In parts the support Feser gives to his claims are brief but appropriate size and nature of the book.

  • A.i.sanchez
    2019-04-28 21:56

    I checked out this book from my library and it didn't take much reading to realize I was probably going to have to purchase my own copy. (Or re-check it out from the library which is what I did.) If you don't have much experience with philosophy and/or metaphysics, the process of contemplating ideas that are foreign to you can take time to get used to. But once I settled in and got used to the authors style it became much easier to comprehend. The Last Superstition by Edward Feser is an unflinching rebuttal to arguments for atheism, expounded by the "New Atheists". In short, this book contains well made refutations to particular challenges and assumptions made by the "Four Horseman" as well as other atheists. If you are looking to sharpen your skills as a Christian apologist or are looking for a book that takes a skeptical and critical look at the claims of the New Atheists this is a good one. My only advice is to make time to do some serious contemplation for this is a serious book that is lightened only by the authors condescending sense of humor. I'm sure I spent much more time in thought than I did actually reading, sometimes only reading one paragraph and spending the next half hour thinking about it. But that's what a good book should make you do right? But let me scare you not, this book was written for the layman and not difficult to understand, I only suggest it should not be taken lightly. Also important to note: if you are not familiar with philosophy Mr Feser devotes much time in the earlier chapters reviewing, briefly, philosophical thought from ancient times to medieval times, and how past philosophical works have impacted modern thought.

  • Joshua Postema
    2019-05-01 17:52

    My first foray into Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy, this book was a primer on the topic for me as much as it was a "refutation of the new atheism". Feser made his points well, provided plenty of background information, and put forth a solid case for a system of thought that deserves (and commands, really) our attention. It is a way of looking at the world unfamiliar with us moderns unless we think about things long enough.I'm not entirely convinced of the value of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy over all philosophies since its conception, but I am interested in reading more. I think the idea is entirely compatible with (and powerfully supportive of) Christianity and represents one of the few coherent rational views of the world. I will be posting a longer review on my personal website.I highly recommend this book to anyone, really. My only advice to anyone reading this would be to seek out the original works of the two primary sources - Aristotle and Aquinas. Despite how complicated and technical portions of the book are that deal with these author's ideas, I believe it would be worth reading those authors to truly understand their worldview. This book, if anything, is an introduction to those two brilliant men and should be the starting point for additional reading.

  • Aaron
    2019-05-14 21:13

    If you want to understand the classical philosophical framework that much of traditional Christian theology is based on, this book does a great job of explaining it. Ed Feser is a Thomistic philosophy professor who really knows how to make complex concepts make sense in a concrete way. This might be the most accessible overview of classical and Scholastic philosophy I've ever read. I'd love to give it 5 stars.Sadly, I can't. Feser spends too much time making snide comments about the purveyors of "New Atheism". They mostly deserve it and its often amusing to me to see a good BURN! against an ideological opponent. But by stooping to that level, the book becomes an exercise in preaching to the choir. The people who I'd like to recommend the book to and would be most likely to benefit from it would likely be turned off by the aggressive tone.I wish Dr. Feser had taken Aquinas's cool-headed tone along with his philosophical framework.

  • Ronald
    2019-05-09 22:13

    Fantastic! I think this is the only book to which I've assigned 5 stars. 267 pages in length and I wouldn't cut a single one. If you've read any of the recent books by the "new" atheists (Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and the like) then you'll feel dirty and need to take a shower. This book is a good, long hot shower with a big bar of Irish Spring. If you think metaphysics and philosophy are either boring or too difficult, this book will change your mind. If you've read some Nietzsche and thought he was nuts, this book will demonstrate why. If you liked the Matrix movies, you'll find its origins explained here. If you believe in God, step-by-step Mr. Feser explains why it's perfectly rational and scientific to do so. If you don't believe in God . . . well, your decision to read or avoid this book is much like the choice in the Matrix . . . read it and you're taking the "red pill" . . . avoid it and you've chosen the "blue pill". Godspeed!

  • Trae Johnson
    2019-05-23 15:52

    Feser does a great job contrasting Aristotelian/Thomistic Philosophy vs. Modern/Newtonian/Mechanical Philosophy, and what follows from the denial of the former and acceptance of the latter. Feser claims that the abandonment of Aristotelianism,viz., Aristotle's metaphysic, was the single greatest intellectual mistake in Western thought. The book explains why this is true.Despite the difficulty of subject matter, I found the book fairly accessible. Although, much attention and focus is required. Feser is a clear writer (and thinker), and makes grand use of wit and ridicule, particularly when it comes to addressing most if not all of those statements made or written by Richard Dawkins and Co. Some have criticized Feser on this point, believing that he should have taken a more gentle tone with the New Atheist crowd. I disagree. Ridicule is sometimes necessary when it comes to addressing fools who think they are wise.

  • Orrin Woodward
    2019-05-23 14:03

    The Last Superstition is one of the best books for profound thinking that I have ever read. My understanding of Aristotle, Plato, and the fallacies of the New Atheist is at an entirely new level. If a person doesn't do the heavy lifting to understand Aristotle, then he will misunderstand Aquinas. If he doesn't comprehend Aquinas, then he is easy pickings for the atheistic genre. On top of the thinking, Feser uses hilarious examples and knows how to keep the main thing the main thing in a debate. Even when you don't agree with him, you are left with respect for his logic and acumen. Surprisingly to me, this book has strengthened my faith more than any book I have read since Francis Schaefer years ago. Well done Edward Feser.