Down is the New Up: 3 Biggest Pieces of Classical Theism Missing From the Modern Mind- Pt. 4.1 Essentialism Cont.

by Mar 9, 20190 comments

Every day, we now witness the irrational conclusion drawn from the loss of essentialism in the modern mind. It’s as if each day tries to outdo the absurdity of its predecessor. For instance, the Girl Scouts of America are now suing the Boy Scouts of America for changing their name to include girls in what used to be a boys only organization. Also, states are now offering gender neutral birth certificates.

Even feminists are now getting run over by the LGBTQ revolutionaries. Recently, these groups denounced Martina Navratilova for saying men should not be able to compete as transwomen in women’s sports because they have an unfair physical advantage.

As Albert Mohler points out, no one is safe from the moral revolutionaries, not even the revolutionaries themselves.

Martina Navratilova once served as an activist and symbol for the gay-rights movement. Now, the moral revolution ran right past her and declared her the problem. That’s the way radical revolutions work. They eventually turn on their own. 1
Albert Mohler

The culture is moving at a dizzying pace. Those who hold to traditional values cannot keep up. We are fast approaching a state of such moral chaos that no one will be able to say what is the “right side of history” anymore. Everyone has their own version of what the right side is.

This is the final post in the series on the 3 biggest pieces of classical theism missing from the modern mind (see previous posts here). In the last post I discussed what essentialism is and why we cannot make sense of reality without it.  In this post I will now look at some specific errors that arise from its rejection. Once again, I will start with secular errors and then move to theological errors.

Natural Rights

The debate between the [views of universals] is ancient, and extremely complicated. It can also seem at first glance to be very dry, esoteric, and irrelevant to practical life. But nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that virtually every major religious, moral, and political controversy of the last several decades – of the last several centuries, in fact – in some way rests on a disagreement, even if implicit and unnoticed, over the “problem of universals” (as it is known). 2
Edward Feser

One of the reasons essentialism is at the heart of most modern controversies is because its denial leaves us with a confused view of how we derive human rights.

John Locke – Father of the Modern Political Mind

John Locke FRS was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the “Father of Liberalism”.


There is none more influential to the modern idea of human rights than John Locke. The American founders formed many of their ideas for the structure of an ideal government based on Locke’s ideas.

John Locke
The single most important influence that shaped the founding of the United States comes from JOHN LOCKE, a 17th century Englishman who redefined the nature of government. Although he agreed with Hobbes regarding the self-interested nature of humans, he was much more optimistic about their ability to use reason to avoid tyranny. In his SECOND TREATISE OF GOVERNMENT, Locke identified the basis of a legitimate government. According to Locke, a ruler gains authority through the consent of the governed. The duty of that government is to protect the natural rights of the people, which Locke believed to include LIFE, LIBERTY, AND PROPERTY. If the government should fail to protect these rights, its citizens would have the right to overthrow that government. This idea deeply influenced THOMAS JEFFERSON as he drafted the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. 3

Many of Locke’s ideas were great steps forward in forming a more just society and protecting individual rights from the government. Locke also based his ideas on an explicit rejection of the classical theistic conception of essentialism though. We are now seeing the consequences of this rejection. Locke’s foundations for human rights ultimately lead to illogical ends, many of which he likely would have opposed himself.

Lockean Self-ownership

Instead of grounding human rights in essentialism, Locke tried to ground them in self-ownership. Locke believed that the creator endowed all people with ownership over themselves. From this axiom, he spins out basic rights we all have to life, liberty, and private property.

While this may be the default position for many today, many problems arise from this view.

First, is it can lead to moral relativism. If you simply remove God from the equation (which many in modern times have done), then no objectively true moral standard exists. Whatever feels right to me is my truth. As long as I don’t infringe on your rights of self-ownership, you have no right to deny me my pure personal autonomy. What is wrong being a drug addict or committing suicide on this view? Also, where does self-ownership even have a ground on this view? It is just a pure assertion.

Another problem is self-ownership is not absolute. If you were on a deserted island and someone washed up on your shores, you would be morally obligated to help them. See my post here for much more on why we have moral obligations to others.

Finally, Locke’s ideas of human rights lead to arbitrary definitions of personhood and who has these rights in the first place.


Locke arrived at self-ownership by rejecting essentialism in favor of conceptualism.

Locke is a conceptualist; he thinks universals exist only in the mind, having no basis in objective reality. Forms or essences are made by man, not determined by nature. But as Jeremy Waldron has pointed out, in that case Locke seems effectively to undermine his claim that human beings have equal rights. For as with every other form, essence, or nature, the form, essence, or nature of human beings too would have to be man-made, on Locke’s account. And if you say that every human being has various natural rights which cannot be overridden by any other human being or government, but then go on to say that what counts as a human being in the first place is ultimately a matter of human convention, then you have made natural rights claims utterly vacuous. “Every human being has natural rights which we can’t take away.” Hooray! “But we get to decide who is a human being and who isn’t.” Oh. The modern elements in Locke’s philosophy inevitably destroy the more traditional ones. He takes back with his left hand what he has given with his right. And this pattern has continued for roughly three centuries. As the consequences of the moderns’ rejection of classical metaphysics have been gradually drawn out, Western thought and Western culture have moved farther and farther away from what Western civilization, and indeed most human beings in every culture, had historically regarded as obvious moral truths.4
Edward Feser

If essences are conventions of our minds, then when personhood and our individual rights begin are also just social constructions that are subject to change. For Locke, this was when people have consciousness and can think and reason. 5

Classical theists, on the other hand, believe that the soul is the substantial form of the body.  A person has rights the moment they come into existence. At this precise moment, they become a new unique substance; a composite of matter and substantial form. 6

Locke didn’t have the debate over abortion and euthanasia we have today, but it is easy to see his metaphysical rejection of substantial forms leads to a view where some individuals are not considered people and thus do not have rights.7

This view of rights becomes more grim when other enlightenment thinkers such as Hobbes and Hume further reject classical theistic ideas and essentialism.

In ethics and politics, a kind of voluntarism is evident in the Hobbesian theses that the good is just whatever one happens to will, and that law is not something the intellect discovers in the nature of things, but rather something the sovereign creates in an act of will. Hume’s claim that reason is but the “slave of the passions” is in the same ballpark, though of course the will and the passions are distinct.  Such ideas are known to have their echoes in modern social and political life. 8
Edward Feser

Here are the seeds for the idea that we do not discover truth within the essences of things in nature, rather our minds create it. This is where the realist vs. anti-realist battle is taking place today and it is not clear who is winning the battle.


Abortion is an inevitable consequence of Locke’s rejection of essentialism. If reality is a social construct, we can define personhood however we want.  We can then abort babies by any arbitrary standard we create.

This is a grave error of the modern mind. We cannot simply define when babies are persons or when they have rights. Their very natures demand these rights from the moment they exist.

Twisted Logic

I find it hard to believe there needs to be a debate over the morality of killing babies in the womb.  And yet there is a debate.  People who believe they are thinking rationally twist logic to try to justify what is completely unjustifiable. Here is an example of the head of BPAS, the UK’s leading abortion provider, trying to justify a moral abomination. This would not be possible without an anti-essentialist philosophy.


It’s a very weird thing in Britain as you quite correctly say the abortion time limit is 24 weeks. The Department of Health have just clarified for doctors that they regard that as being 23 weeks plus 6 days. It’s defined to the minute.

So what that means is you have a situation which in my mind is quite bizarre, where at 5 minutes to midnight something is perfectly legal, then at 5 minutes past midnight it is a criminal offense where both the woman and the doctor can be sent to prison.

To my mind that is utterly bizarre. It’s bizarre on two counts. One is that even if you oppose abortion, you can’t say that something’s right on one side of the midnight hour and wrong on another. And, if you’re a doctor and in this country, and say abortion is very tightly regulated, you’re in a situation where you can know that abortion is in a woman’s best interests but if for some reason she’s thwarted from receiving an abortion on that time limit, perhaps because she’s ill and it would not be safe to treat her, or maybe there’s a big snowfall or the trains don’t work, you’re in a position where you cannot extend her treatment time by a day and again that seems to me to be utterly bizarre seems a bit arbitrary – arbitrary and wrong. 9
Ann Furedi, Head of BPAS, the UK’s leading abortion provider

Furedi’s logic is utterly fascinating. She sees that the current law is arbitrary in its definition of when personal rights begins for a fetus, but she doesn’t understand that her entire position is arbitrary too. Furedi wants to push the time limit of permissible abortion back up to the very moment of delivery. Later in the same program she even admits she is currently struggling with grounding why birth should be the moment that the right to life begins.

This is madness! These are arbitrary decisions based on what this person “feels” is when life begins. Why the moment of birth? What makes the birth canal special that a baby suddenly receives human rights as it passes through it? 10 The answer is nothing, of course.

Plus, why stop the right to abort at the birth canal? We could find all kinds of excuses to continue this point of it being morally permissible to end life. As we have seen in previous posts, people are trying to do just that by arguing for legally permissible infanticide.11

Why Stop With Killing Babies?

If we can decide who lives and who dies why can’t we decide handicapped people don’t deserve to live? This is what the nazis did. They called it “life unworthy of life” (in German: “Lebensunwertes Leben”). Those deemed unworthy of life such as impaired people (those with disabilities) were euthanized. Eventually, this extended to people of other races deemed impure. Again, if reality is just a social construct, why are these actions immoral?

This is not a slippery slope fallacy. This is simply applying the logic of Locke and nominalism consistently and is what happens when personhood and rights are just definitions determined by social convention.

Life and Personhood Begin at Conception

The problem is people deny essentialism and deny reality in order to justify their immoral actions. All humans are fully distinct organisms, from the very moment of conception. From our essence as a human being we have natural rights that God embedded in nature itself.

A recent statement by 5 medical doctors clearly demonstrate this same point. Science points to the fact life begins at conception, affirming the essentialist position.

Fact 1: It is an undisputed scientific fact that a distinct, living human being exists in the womb of a pregnant mother.

From the moment of fertilization, a human being meets all of the scientific criteria for a living organism [1] and is completely distinct from her/his mother, not a part of her/his mother’s body. This is scientific fact. It is therefore scientifically correct for S. 311 to identify the living survivors of abortions as human persons and afford those human beings the full protection of the law in the same way that infants of similar gestational ages are currently protected. 12

It is also extremely important to note here that there is never a medical reason to abort a baby to save the life of a mother. This is probably the number one reason why pro-choice advocates say late-term abortions are sometimes necessary. Again, here is a statement from medical doctors that explicitly state this is blatantly false.

Fact 2: Abortion is not healthcare, much less an essential part of women’s health care, and abortions in the third trimester are not done to save a woman’s life

There are rare circumstances in which a mother’s life is in jeopardy due to either pre-existing conditions or pregnancy complications. It is extremely rare for this to occur prior to the point of viability (currently 22 weeks after last menstrual period, 20 weeks after fertilization). After 20 weeks fertilization age, it is never necessary to intentionally kill the fetal human being in order to save a woman’s life. [5] In cases where the mother’s life actually is in danger in the latter half of pregnancy, there is not time for an abortion, because an abortion typically is a two to three-day process. Instead, immediate delivery is needed in these situations, and can be done in a medically appropriate way (labor induction or C-section) by the woman’s own physician. We can, and do, save the life of the mother through delivery of an intact infant in a hospital where both the mother and her newborn can receive the care that they need. There is no medical reason to intentionally kill that fetal human being through an inhumane abortion procedure, e.g. dismembering a living human being capable of feeling pain [6][7] [8], or saline induction which burns off the skin, or feticide with subsequent induction.13

Essentialism demonstrates through science and logic that a fetus is a person. It is those who support abortion that are being irrational and anti-science, either by denying a baby is a person or saying a baby does not have the same rights other people have.

I think Horton sums up abortion from an essentialist point of view best when he states:

Because, after all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.14
Horton, from Horton Hears a Who

Transgender Revolution

Do I have the ability to change reality with my mind?  In some senses I do. If I tell myself I am a loser over and over, eventually I will believe it and become depressed. If I tell myself over and over that I am woman, even though I have a man’s body, does it become so?

There are objective natures to reality that do not depend on our minds to exist. Gender is one such nature.

And yet, the majority of cultural opinion is starting to think we do construct gender with our mind. They make it a separate issue from sex and then say the two can sometimes be mismatched.

Remember, the essentialist believes that when we define things, our words are accurately describing an objective truth about essences.

The word gender comes from the Greek root “the manner in which one generates.”  We see the same root in other words that all have to do with generation/creation: genesis, genitals, generous, etc. Gender, by definition, is tied to the procreative aspects of human nature. It is not describing how we act and feel.

When we try to redefine the word gender to mean something other than that aspect of an essence that has potential to produce life, we are lying to ourselves what the word means. If we can do this with this word, we can do it with any word. Here, reality has gone completely out the window.

The Facts of Life?
Imagine, if you will, that an alien being from a genderless galaxy landed on earth to study the human being. Coming from such a world, the male-female difference would likely be the first thing to catch its attention. “What is this difference for?” it would ask. Upon study, this alien would readily observe that each member of the human species is amazingly self-sufficient in his or her functions as an organism. The heart, the lungs, the kidney, the pancreas, the stomach, the bladder, the rectum, etc., all work together to carry out their functions. And both male and female have all the same organs . . . except . . . except what we fittingly call the genital organs.

There is one function this alien has discovered – and a critical function indeed – that simply cannot be carried out without cooperation from another member of the species. And that other member of the species must be of the opposite gender (that is, must have different, complementary genital organs), or said function doesn’t function. This is the light that illuminates for the alien the most basic purpose of the gender difference. The genital organs of male and female actually work together in a stunning, harmonious interdependency to generate new members of the species. It’s where we get the word gender, which, based on its Greek root, means “the manner in which one generates.” We see the same root in words like genesis, generous, genitals, progeny, genes, and genealogy.

Furthermore, since the child born to them cannot survive on its own, the alien rightly realizes that the man and the woman who cooperated in generating this new life, if they are to be responsible, must commit themselves to rearing their child. Precisely this commitment—the commitment to responsible genital intercourse as the foundation of future generations—is called marriage.15
Christopher West

Playing Along?

It is unfortunate that people experience gender dysphoria. Like same-sex attraction, it is a burden some people in our fallen world face.

Ultimately, Christ is what people in this scenario need. In Christ, all people are loved, forgiven, and made whole. Bringing the message of hope and salvation through Christ to these people is of the utmost importance.

I also think helping people deal with objective reality is showing true compassion and love. We should not just play along with their delusions.  As such, we should recognize gender dysphoria for the psychological disorder it is and encourage treatment by professionals who know best how to do so.

Political Weapon

Unfortunately, the transgender issue has become a political weapon and we are now seeing an attack on anyone who holds to the essentialist view of reality. We are now all being forced to play along with a vision of reality that isn’t true.

This denial of reality isn’t just affecting a small portion of the population. This transgender revolution and denial of reality is creeping into every aspect of public discourse.

This can be seen in any of the multitude of cases over using proper pronouns. People are losing their jobs over not consenting to this anti-realist/nominalist view of language. In December 2018, a Virginia high-school teacher lost his job over such an incident with a transgender student. 16

The transgender debate is also affecting schools around the U.S. A quick Google search of transgender bathrooms will bring up countless stories of schools being sued by students over the right to use bathrooms that are different from their sex.

This is even effecting children as young as in kindergarten. In 2016, a family sued a St. Paul, MN school because they felt it wasn’t doing everything they needed to meet the needs of their transgender kindergartner. The parents demanded that the school go as far to teach the entire kindergarten class about transgenderism (and from a pro-transgender point of view).17

Parents Rights?

We now are seeing many legislative and judicial measures that limit the rights of parents too.

Recently a Canadian court ruled that parents can’t stop a 14-year-old from taking hormones to help transition to a different sex.18

A 2017 case awarded custodianship to grandparents over a 17-year-old’s biological parents because the grandparents wanted the child to go through transgender hormone therapy. The child’s parents objected.19

Another example is a recent bioethics journal that agues it is immoral to prevent a child from going through puberty-blocking hormone therapy.20 If ideas like this continue, there will be many more court cases where children and the government will decide what is best, not the parents.

This is just further evidence that transgenderism has become a political weapon and is another opportunity for government to take away rights from parents.

It is sad because remember it is Locke’s idea of self-ownership that aimed to build a better society without unjust intrusion from the government.  Locke’s rejection of essentialism and radical sense of self-ownership makes it seemingly rational to allow a child to make such destructive choices with their body. I find it hard to imagine that Locke would have agreed with taking away the rights of parents, and yet, it is his anti-realist position on essences that leads us to where we are today.

Errors in the Church

While nominalism has lead to many absurdities in society, it has also been the source of many theological errors throughout church history. Chief among these errors is theological voluntarism.


William of Ockham was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher and theologian, who is believed to have been born in Ockham, a small village in Surrey.

The general idea of voluntarism is that because God’s will is so radically free and because He has infinite power, God can will anything and it is so. On this view, God could will what is bad to be good. For instance, God could say that murder is actually good and we would all be morally obligated to try to murder people whenever possible.

Ockham is typically regarded as a nominalist, though some would argue (rightly in my view) that he is better regarded as a conceptualist.  Either way, his anti-essentialism entailed a rejection of realism about universals, and this position was ultimately rooted, not in the “razor” principle, but in his theological voluntarism.  For God’s will to be supremely free and omnipotent, there must in Ockham’s view be nothing in the nature of things that could limit what he might command.  Hence Ockham held that God could in principle command us to commit adultery or even to hate Him, and if He did so these things really would be good for us.  He could also break the causal connections that ordinarily hold between things.21
Edward Feser

As we have already seen, morality is grounded in essences and teleology. With divine simplicity, we saw these things flow from God’s very nature.  As such, God cannot act against His own nature.22

§ 278. (II) The Calvinists, who set the freedom to act, or God’s free will, against the rest of the divine attributes. That is, because of His freedom to act, they attribute to God the sort of things that conflict with His goodness, righteousness, and wisdom. They say, for example, that “God drives people to sin,” that “God has made an absolute decree of reprobation,” etc. But if we say that this conflicts with the righteousness and holiness of God, they flee for refuge to the idea that “God is an utterly free agent and is subject to no laws.” Yet God acts freely in such a way that He still does not act contrary to His own natural righteousness and goodness.23
Johann Gerhard

Johannes Gerhard was a Lutheran church leader and Lutheran Scholastic theologian during the period of Orthodoxy.


God cannot in principle ever do evil.  This is why classical theists have been so adamantly against voluntarism since it first reared its head and why they remain so today.

And in his famous Regensburg Address, Pope Benedict XVI criticized a voluntarism which:

“might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness.  God’s transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God…  As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy…  God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism.”

As Benedict’s remarks indicate, that man is by nature a rational animal is what makes it true that we are made in God’s image.  Voluntarism is, accordingly, a dehumanizing doctrine.  In making of us fundamentally willful animals rather than rational ones, it simply gets human nature wrong.  And it makes us out to be essentially “capricious… not even bound to truth and goodness,” all our reasons at bottom just rationalizations of what the will has fixed itself upon.  It is an essentially Nietzschean conception of human nature, even if some of its adherents think of themselves as the reverse of Nietzschean.24
Edward Feser

Can God Create a Rock so Big that Even He Cannot Lift it?

Voluntarism also leads to the idea that God has the power to bring about logical contradictions. On this view, God could make a rock so big that even He could not lift it. Or, worse yet, God could make Himself not exist. This has never been the view of the classical theist conception of God. In our post on divine simplicity, we saw how the laws of logic are a reflection of God’s very nature. Even God cannot make logical contradictions true. This is not a limitation of His power, it is just incoherent.

Furthermore, if the voluntaristic conception of God were true, there would be no reason to trust Him. He has promised us eternal life through Christ’s atoning death and resurrection, but what would stop Him from taking His promise back? Why would He need to keep His word?25

One God Among Many

Finally, voluntarism and nominalism turn God into one being among many.

In other ways too the Ockhamist God and human monarchs are comparable. As Paul Tillich notes in his A History of Christian Thought, Ockham’s pulverization of all reality into a collection of unrelated individuals also had a tendency to turn God into merely one individual among others, albeit a grand and remote one. God is, on this conception, no longer Pure Being, pervading and sustaining the world at every moment, but merely a superhuman external spectator, arranging things from outside.  In short, the classical theism of Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas is replaced with a forerunner of “theistic personalism” or neo-theism. And when this is combined with the nominalist and voluntarist conception of God as an unfathomable will given to issuing arbitrary commands, one can see why the atheist might think of God as a kind of cosmic Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong Il – an accusation that is unintelligible when made against the God of classical theism. 26
Edward Feser

As we saw in our post on divine simplicity, to make God into the maximally great being among many is for God to cease to be God. God is the ground of all being, not one being among many. A voluntaristic view of God opens the door back to many atheist objections, especially that God would need a cause too.

Loss of Theology of the Body

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

So many within the church fall into sin as they act out sexually against our natures. Homosexuality, fornication, masturbation, pornography, etc., all are symptoms of people ignoring their essences and the teleology that flows from them.

When you lose the essentialist view of reality, you lose the ability to speak to why sexual sins are indeed sins.

Pope John Paul II was visible head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005.


Pope John Paul II spent a great deal of time studying human sexuality from a theological perspective. His teachings on the matter have become known as the Theology of the Body.

A theology of the body is an essentialist view of what it means to be human.  As we saw in the posts on teleology, what is good and moral is using our bodies in accord with our nature. The church, too, needs reminding of this truth and needs to renew its vigor for proclaiming it to the world.

Essentialism Conclusion

Some may think worrying about essentialism is just highfalutin philosophy. It’s not, though.

Essentialism’s exclusion from our minds has utterly disastrous consequences. When we deny essences, words lose all objective meaning. We think we can create reality however we define it. People lose rights. People impose their will on others based on whatever they feel. Those with the biggest numbers, the loudest voice, or the biggest stick end up dictating our social norms and laws.

Series Conclusion

We have been on a trajectory into further absurdity with these posts on the loss of ideas of classical theism in the modern mind. First, in the post on divine simplicity we saw what follows from a denial of God or making him in our own image. Next, we saw how a denial of teleology brings calling what is good bad, and what is bad good. Finally, we saw a denial of essentialism causes us to deny reality all together.

This is the final destination of atheism. This is Nietzsche’s will to power. This is man trying to ascend the throne of God and claim we are in control of reality and can make it whatever we want. The world is truly upside down.

These are just fantasies though. Reality always catches up with everyone in the end. We all will stand before our creator one day, from this there is no escape.

CS Lewis likely couldn’t have imagined how far we have gone down the rabbit hole in such a short time. We have moved far beyond C. S. Lewis’s concerns of creating men without chests.

The World Needs Classical Theism More Than Ever

The modern mind needs to be reminded that there is an ultimate good that all things are directed towards: God. The modern mind needs to be reminded that only a God whose very nature is goodness itself could truly be God (divine simplicity). And the modern mind needs to be reminded that things have natures (essentialism) and to act in accord with their design is good (teleology).

More than anything, the modern mind needs to be reminded that we are all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God and thus need a savior. Thanks be to God we have one!

1 Peter 1:3-6

Praise to God for a Living Hope
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

  1. ↩︎
  2. Edward Feser. The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism. Kindle Locations 910-914. St. Augustine’s Press. ↩︎
  3. ↩︎
  4. ‌Edward Feser. The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism Kindle Locations 3906-3911. St. Augustine’s Press. ↩︎
  5. Locke defines a person as “a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing in different times and places; which it does only by that consciousness, which is inseparable from thinking, and as it seems to me essential to it”. Feser, Edward. Locke. P. 67 ↩︎
  6. However modified, a Lockean account of personal identity is clearly radically at odds with the sorts implicit in Cartesianism and Scholasticism, in a way that might seem to threaten the moral and theological assumptions Locke shared with his predecessors. For Descartes, the self is identical with a certain kind of substance, namely an immaterial substance or soul. This sort of substance has on Descartes’s view a kind of natural immortality, so that a Cartesian account of personal identity allows for the possibility of rewards and punishments in the hereafter. But for Locke, the self is not identical with any kind of substance at all. For the Scholastics, on whose view the soul is not an immaterial substance but rather the substantial form of the body, a person is neither a soul by itself nor a body by itself but a composite of soul and body, and life after death is attained when the matter of a person’s body is once again informed by the person’s soul at the resurrection. Feser, Edward. Locke. P. 69 ↩︎
  7. Those who take a more or less Lockean view of personal identity are likely to adefend the moral legitimacy of abortion and euthanasia, for they are more likely to take the view that fetuses and patients in “persistent vegetative states,” lacking as they do the rich conscious lives of normal adults, do not count as persons. Contemporary natural law theorists, Roman Catholic and otherwise, are by contrast inclined to take the view that fetuses and PVS patients are persons precisely because they have living human bodies, and thus (given a broadly Scholastic metaphysics) souls, so that abortion and euthanasia cannot be allowed. On the Scholastic view, it is irrelevant that fetuses and PVS patients do not actualize their capacity to reason or have conscious thoughts, for what makes a person a person is the inherent capacity for these activities, and these creatures retain these capacities in potency if not in act. On a Lockean view, it seems, to persist in unconsciousness is just to cease to be a person at all. That is not to say that Locke himself would have endorsed the application of his views to a defense of abortion and euthanasia, which are topics he does not address, but it is to suggest that Locke’s metaphysical views may have moral implications that he was unaware of. ‌Feser, Edward. Locke. P. 71 ↩︎
  8. Feser, Edward. Voluntarism and PSR. ‌ ↩︎
  9. 13:16 – 15:14 ↩︎
  10. ↩︎
  11. ↩︎
  12. ↩︎
  13. ibid. ↩︎
  14. Dr. Seuss. Horton Hears a Who. ↩︎
  15. West, Christopher.  Eclipse of the Body: How We Lost the Meaning of Sex, Gender, Marriage, & Family (And How to Reclaim It).  Totus Tuus Press.  2018. loc. 12 ↩︎
  16. ‌ ↩︎
  17. ↩︎
  18. ↩︎
  19. ‌ ↩︎
  20. ‌ ↩︎
  21. Feser, Edward. Razor Boy. ↩︎
  22. § 276. (X) God wills some things from the necessity of nature and some things freely. He wills from the necessity of nature whatever He wills concerning Himself, moved by nothing either within or without Himself. In this way He wills Himself, His goodness, and His glory. He wills freely whatever He wills concerning His creatures according to the good pleasure of His will, things He could both will and not will. He wills these without any necessity, except for the hypothetical necessity that is proper to immutability. Thomas, Contra gent., bk. 1, c. 83: “God wills whatever He wills not by necessity. But given that He wills something, it is necessary, because God’s will is immutable.” Gerhard, Johan. Theological commonplaces. On the nature of God and on the most holy mystery of the Trinity. loc. 748 ↩︎
  23. Gerhard, Johan. Theological commonplaces. On the nature of God and on the most holy mystery of the Trinity. loc. 751 ↩︎
  24. Feser, Edward. The Voluntaristic Personality. ↩︎
  25. “This seems to me to be another one of those watershed issues in theology where the Bible isn’t as much help as we’d like it to be.  Perhaps the decision about being either a nominalist or realist takes place prior to interpretations of texts.  How, then, would one decide which to line up with?  Probably by considering the consequences of each and deciding with which set of consequences one can live.  For example, if God has no eternal, immutable character that controls or at least guides his decisions and if God can do absolutely anything without limit (except perhaps logic), why not believe that God could, and therefore might, renege on his promises?  Can such a God be trusted?The fundamental issue, it seems to me, comes back to the meaningfulness of a statement like “God is a good God.”  Every Christian that I know affirms this.  But the statement would seem to mean something entirely different to a nominalist/voluntarist than to a realist/non-voluntarist.  To the former it can only mean either that absolute power such as God possesses is good or that whatever God does is automatically good or both.  To the latter it means that there exists in God himself a moral structure that prohibits even God from doing certain things–such as lying.” Olson, Roger. A Much Neglected Basic Choice in Theology. ↩︎
  26. Feser, Edward. Razor Boy. ↩︎

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