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The Last Superstition (A Refutation of the New Atheism) Paperback – 2009

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  • Paperback: 299 pages
  • Publisher: St. Augustine's Press (2009)
  • ASIN: B007HQ39BC
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,861,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The central contention of the "New Atheism" of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens is that there has for several centuries been a war between science and religion, that religion has been steadily losing that war, and that at this point in human history a completely secular scientific account of the world has been worked out in such thorough and convincing detail that there is no longer any reason why a rational and educated person should find the claims of any religion the least bit worthy of attention. But as Edward Feser argues in The Last Superstition, in fact 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 conceptions of the natural order: on the one hand, the classical "teleological" vision of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, on which purpose or goal-directedness is as inherent a feature of the physical world as mass or electric charge; and the modern "mechanical" vision of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and Hume, according to which the physical world is comprised of nothing more than purposeless, meaningless particles in motion. The modern "mechanical" picture has never been established by science, and cannot be, for it is not a scientific theory in the first place but merely a philosophical interpretation of science. Not only is this modern philosophical picture rationally unfounded, it is demonstrably false. For the "mechanical" conception of the natural world, when worked out consistently, absurdly entails that rationality, and indeed the human mind itself, are illusory. The so-called "scientific worldview" championed by the New Atheists thus inevitably undermines its own rational foundations; and into the bargain it undermines the foundations of any possible morality as well. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Richard M. Price on 30 Dec 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book contains several elements of very unequal value. The best, and fortunately the longest, part of the work is an introduction to Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics, with lucid accounts of act/potentiality, form/matter, efficient/final causation, and the rest, and proceeds to show how the rejection of Thomism in favour of empiricism in early modern philosophy created a whole range of unnecessary and unreal problems over personal identity, mind and matter, and the like. All would be solved if only we would go back to St Thomas. This is a fascinating and compelling argument.

The second element in this book, and the only one that directly counters the `new atheism', is a statement of some of the arguments based on Thomist metaphysics for the existence of God - Aquinas's famous `five ways'. Again there is lucid exposition, but attention should be paid to the objections raised by good metaphysicians such as Anthony Kenny. The argument here needs expansion if it is to be (as I believe it can be) fully convincing.

The third element in the book consists of recurrent invective against liberalism, particularly in ethics. Feser has a particular hatred of gay lib, and the book begins with a nasty swipe at those who treat `the family and sodomy' as being of equal value. One's inclination is to throw the book out of the window, and ill-tempered, malicious ranting disfigures later parts of the book as well; sadly, Feser habitually insults his opponents, careless of the danger that he will simply alienate those who don't agree with him already. This, I admit, is a major flaw. But I would advise readers to suppress their annoyance and persevere. The better parts of this book - and they make up most of it - provide a well-informed and hugely readable account of some of the main problems in the history of metaphysics.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By trini on 29 Sep 2011
Format: Paperback
This is perhaps the most satisfying book I have ever read, because, positively, it deals with and establishes the truth of the three most fundamental issues that can possibly exist [the author repeats these three over and over throughout his book, e.g. on p. 25: `the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the natural law conception of morality'], and because it also demolishes the opposite view, delivering the promise made in the subtitle: "A Refutation of the New Atheism" which is propounded especially by the 'New Atheists' Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett. In other words, to use the words of a very ancient popular song, it "accentuates [in fact it establishes] the positive, and it eliminates the negative".

I make the point, though, that even at the risk of overloading the title or subtitle, the author could [or should] have included in it/them some indication that his purpose was twofold, first to establish the truth and the continuing validity of the traditional metaphysical and religious worldview established in the Judeo-Greco-Christian tradition, and secondly to refute the worldview of 'modern' mainstream European and US philosophy [Descartes, Hume, Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Darwin, Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, et al.] which threatened and partly took over from the previous worldview. This latter, naturalist, secular, anti-spiritual worldview is "a counter-religion , a counter-morality" [Feser's 'Last Superstition'], "that is ... deeply irrational and immoral, indeed the very negation of reason and morality" (p. 20).
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21 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jack Hughes on 23 April 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Last Superstition is a well argued, fundementally sound refutation of the athiesm peddled by the likes of Dawkins, Hitchins et al. It is an excellent introduction (albiet on a basic level) to Platonic and Aristotelien Philosophy and tackiling (again at a basic level) the errors made by the likes of Descarte, Kant and Hume (to name but a few) during the so-called eligtenmnet of the 17th Century along with their social implications.
I say that I would have liked (given an option) to give a 9.5/10 becasue although the polemics Feser throws at the new athiests are fun to start with by the end they are starting to get slightly annoying (not to say that dawkins dosn't deserve it), It is also my opinion that the book ought to have been longer and have included more source material on the errors of the elightinment philosophers, having said that Prof. Feser deserves to be commended for taking dawkins et al out to the woodshed.
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22 of 31 people found the following review helpful By P. Richardson on 19 Jan 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book, and unusually for a work of philosophy, it's a real page turner. The tone is extremely polemical in places, but justifiably so given the rebarbative nature of the stuff written by Dawkins et al. The best thing about it though is the coherence of the case it makes for the Aristotelian-Thomist world view which was not so much refuted by the seventeenth century scientific revolution as merely abandoned. Feser's overall point seems to be that without the metaphysical underpinning of God, as classically conceived, reason itself has no foundation. It's a powerful thesis, cogently and energetically expressed. Well worth the effort.
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