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Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction Paperback – 17 Mar 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Editiones Scholasticae (17 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3868385444
  • ISBN-13: 978-3868385441
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 276,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Feser's new book is a welcome addition for those interested in bringing the concepts, terminology and presuppositions between scholastic and contemporary analytic philosophers to commensuration. In fact, I would contend that Feser's book will constitute an important piece in its own right for guiding the research program for contemporary Thomistic metaphysicians into the future." --Notre Dame Philosophical Review "Scholastic Metaphysics is a well written defense of common sense beliefs about the nature of reality itself, and if read carefully, will probably persuade many. Establishing the veracity of this metaphysic entails supporting classical theism, the reality of universals, the efficacy of natural reason, and the normativity of natural law." --Andrew Fulford, The Calvinist International

About the Author

Edward Feser is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California, USA. His most recent books include Aquinas and The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, and the edited volume Aristotle on Method and Metaphysics.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Adam Dolan on 11 Sep 2014
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This book is an incredible follow on from Edward Feser's other works (The Last Superstition, Aquinas, Philosophy of Mind), but unlike his other works is definitely not an introductory level text. From page one to the end the book is a dense treatment of the major issues of Metaphysics; issues of causation, substance, modality, essence, existence, et al. The book takes careful, and patient, reading to absorb and understand the subject matter. Written chiefly from a Thomistic perspective, with references to William of Ockham, Duns Scotus, & Suarez scattered throughout but also in dialogue with contemporary Analytical Metaphysics.

The Prolegomenon is aimed chiefly at Naturalism or Scientism, and meant as a decisive refutation. Of which I am of the opinion Feser is successful, and the case made for the superiority of the Classical Metaphysics of Aristotle, St Thomas, and the Scholastics is made cogently and convincingly.
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By TOMASZ MAMELKA on 20 Dec 2014
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Just one word: very good!!!
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99 of 100 people found the following review helpful
It lived up to the hype... and beyond... 5 May 2014
By Bobby Bambino - Published on
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Oh my gosh, was this book worth the wait! I cannot tell you how excited I was for the released of this book, yet it far surpassed my expectations. I have read and benefitted from many readings of Aquinas, Garrigou-Lagrange, and other scholastics and neo-scholastics, but after reading this book, I believe I could reread all of them and get out so much more that I missed the first time. This book gives definitions distinctions, and examples to carefully flesh out all the metaphysical background that authors like Aquinas and Garrigou-Lagrange take as necessary background in their work. For example, I was reading Garrigou-Lagrange the other night, and he used the term “specific difference.” Had I not read Feser, I would not have realized that there was a technical meaning to this term. Little things like this are invaluable, and Feser has delivered a gem that I will most likely keep referring to for years to come. In addition, the bibliography is quite extensive and gives a plethora of other reading material, including many authors that I had never even heard of.

As I mentioned above, this is a contemporary introduction to the metaphysics that were held by the Schloastics. In that regard, this book is one of the very few that I know of which 1) is concerned with scholastic metaphysics qua metaphysics 2) systematic 3) scholarly 4) readable. For example it is difficult to find a thorough defense of the principle of sufficient reason (PSR). Even in a great book like Father Garrigou-Lagrange’s “God VI” the great Thomist is not interested in PSR qua PSR but in order to apply it to prove God’s existence. These kinds of little details are things that those not familiar with some of the underlying assumptions of the scholastics need to be filled in on before fully appreciating the writings of neo-Scholastics. To that end, this book is invaluable. Careful definitions are given, reasons and arguments are given for the existence of things like form, matter, potency, final causes etc. The book is also scholarly in the sense that it interacts with much of the current literature in philosophy (especially contemporary analytic philosophy), comparing and contrasting these views with Scholastic metaphysics. Yet as I mentioned it is also readable if you have a solid background already in some of this stuff e.g. Feser’s Aquinas or The Last Superstition. It is not as easy or as light a read as his aforementioned books, but is still quite readable, especially given the level of sophistication of the material. Finally, it is worth mentioning that Feser defends Thomism in particular, especially against the thought of Suarez and Scotus. The positions of Suarez and Scotus are charitably laid out and argued for (at least on issues where they would differ from Aquinas), but ultimately rebutted by the Thomistic response.

There are at least two uses of this book. One (as I have basically done) is to use it to simply learn to be able to coherently articulate scholastic metaphysics. What are essences, secondary matter, nominal definitions, etc? How do they relate to one another, and how do certain concepts necessitate others? This book is an unparalleled resource for such a goal. But one can also use it to defend and interact with arguments against concepts in scholastic metaphysics. How does one answer the critiques leveled against scholastic metaphysics by men like Hume, Kant, Locke, etc? What does scholastic metaphysics have to say about contemporary analytic philosophy? This book delves into that series of questions as well, and one can put their focus in either reading, obtaining a tremendous benefit. But for someone who is still trying to gain his bearings, one can easily use it for the former, perusing the more technical interactions with contemporary analytic philosophy and skepticism.

As to the specific contents of the book, Feser sets the stage in the first chapter by noting that the book is “about the science of the absolutely first principles of being.” This is in contrast to a book about scholastic ethics, theology or nature (though he mentions on page 9 that he intends to follow up this book with a book on philosophy of nature!!). Feser fancies his book to be complementary to David Oderberg’s 2007 “Real Essentialism,” a book devoted to defending the real existence of essences from an Aristotilian-Thomistic point of view. In that regards, I believe he succeeds. After a brief introduction, Feser gives 4 arguments against scientism, interacting with the views of professional philosophers like Alex Rosenberg and popular science philosophizers like Lawrence Krauss. His replies to Rosenberg’s “explanatory power and prediction of physics” argument in favor of scientism is completely devastating. Feser shows how such a view stacks the deck in favor of scientism by simply defining all that one all of reality ion terms of measurable quantity (this is a theme he critiques throughout).

The first chapter begins to flesh out one of the main, if not THE main, fundamental distinctions in scholastic thought, that of act and potency. Beginning by quoting the first of the 24 Thomistic theses (always a good start), Feser, describes act and potency as well as the many distinctions that arise e.g. subjective potency, uncreated potency, absolute pure act, etc. At first I thought including a flow chart in the book making all these distinctions would be helpful, but this actually forced me to make my own, which is much more beneficial than looking at someone else’s chart. I highly recommend the reader to make a similar chart, distinguishing all the different kinds of act and potency. You have the active potency to do it! (and if you don’t know what that means, all the more reason to make the chart) Speaking of powers, Feser devotes a section of this chapter to defending the existence of need for postulating power or active potency contra a Humean regularity theory as well as counterfactual theories of causation. Borrowing largely from modern analytic philosophy, Feser argues that powers account much better for all possible scenarios and explains why, for example, it is possible for a cause to generate a certain effect, even if it never actualizes this potential. In a discussion of how powers contribute to our understanding of science, it is pointed out that powers make sense of modeling a phenomena with both a discrete and a continuous model. Feser is not afraid to bust out symbolic notation. The chapter ends with a discussion of how act and potency have found its way into modern analytic philosophy under the similar but different guise of categorical and dispositional, as well as a Scholastic appraisal of the analytic concepts.

The Chapter on causality begins with a defense of final causes against those who argued that efficient causality is sufficient, such as William of Ockham. The basic response is that such a position lacks a much needed explanation of efficient causality i.e. removing any one of the four causes does not paint a full picture or explanation of a being. Feser then interacts with modern analytic philosophers and how final causes combined with Scholastic distinctions can shed light on their discussions of intentionality. This chapter studies the Principle of Causality (PC), the Principle on non-contradiction (PNC), and the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) as well as the relationship between these principles. The Scholastic Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) is introduced and compared with the rationalist version of the PSR. Feser shows how objects to the latter do nothing to the former. As a devout reader of Fr Garrigou-Lagrange, I do have to point out that Feser dismisses Fr GL’s attempt from ‘God VI’ to argue that denial of PSR implies denial of PNC without actually interacting with Fr GL (but we can forgive him for that). Also defended in this chapter is the Principle of Proportionate Causality (PPC), and how most moderns typically take PPC to be a statement only about material causes. In particular, Feser answers the common objection that evolution disproves the PPC by noting not only that the PPC concerns all 4 causes, but also noting that the effect must exist in the cause in any one of three ways- either formally, virtually, or eminently.

I did have some trouble with the chapter on existence and essence; in particular, on existence. It is still a little bit unclear to me EXACTLY what Thomists mean by existence i.e. a definition. Feser discusses how it is a first-order predicate, but I'm not sure what that means. He does do a good job of saying what Thomists DON'T mean by existence; that is, the Fregean notion of specific existence involving an existential quantifier or individual existence, which I understood given my mathematics background. But I’m still a little unclear as to exactly what the definition of "to exist" is for the Scholastic. However, the answer may be in his very last section on the “analogy of being” where, if I am understanding this properly, no two things can be said to have being in exactly (univocally) the same way- hence the need for the analogy of being and consequently, no need for a general definition of being or existence since it is predicated of every individual differently.

As I mentioned above, this book is simply a gem. It is a scholarly work that clearly needs to be taken seriously in the philosophical world. You will not be disappointed upon purchase of this book. It seems to me that after one reads Feser’s TLS followed by Aquinas and this, they will be ready to appreciate the writings of the scholastics on a whole new level. I give this book my highest recommendation possible.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Those who have enjoyed Prof. Feser's other works will not be disappointed. 27 Aug 2014
By Marc Paterno - Published on
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This is an "introduction" to Scholastic thought, but not an introductory book on philosophy. That caveat aside, it is written clearly, with copious references (including many easily available on the web) for those who wish more detail on specific issue. Those who have enjoyed Prof. Feser's other works will not be disappointed.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I was just a little disappointed. Not because the book is not done well 6 Dec 2014
By mp - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I gave the book four, but it could be five stars. I was just a little disappointed. Not because the book is not done well. Indeed, after reading several of his previous books it would surprise me to find one done badly. Feser knows what he is talking about, and it shows. Instead, I was disappointed because it is less an introduction than it is (as the title clearly expresses) a "contemporary" introduction. What I mean is that Mr. Feser contrasts (mostly) Thomism with whatever is going on in today's modernist philosophy. Thus, anyone looking for a straightforward presentation of scholastic thought in and of itself will not be too well served, since all of the modern stuff the professor has to critique is necessarily included. As long as you are ready for that, or if that is what you are looking for, it's hard to go wrong with this book. One other thing I noticed, for some reason the spine lettering is upside down from the cover lettering.
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Guidebook 17 May 2014
By Paul Amrhein - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Professor Feser’s grasp of both modern and medieval philosophy is comprehensive and sure.*Scholastic Metaphysics* is a concise, comprehensive, reliable, well-referenced, and up-to-date guide to the whole vast titular territory.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This book is best understood as a critical response to analytic metaphysics from ... 5 Sep 2014
By Lambda 9 - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is best understood as a critical response to analytic metaphysics from the scholastic perspective regarding issues such as causation, essentialism, and persistence. In this regard Prof. Feser references extensively to David Oderberg's more detailed argumentations in Real Essentialism, and his effort is certainly to be recommended. But on the other hand, for my personal interest, I'm still hungry for a more elaborate treatment of scholastic metaphysics itself (which the title of the book also refers to) from a contemporary perspective like Feser and Oderberg's. And this is the reason why I only give this book 4 stars: there's simply not enough scholastic metaphysics in the book, although what the book contains is already a great read.
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