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The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the…

The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (original 2008; edition 2010)

by Edward Feser

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127494,816 (4.62)5
Title:The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism
Authors:Edward Feser
Info:St. Augustines Press (2010), Edition: First Edition, New edition, PB, Paperback, 312 pages
Collections:Your library, Paper copy on a shelf, Christianity, Philosophy
Tags:Apologetics, Theology, Philosophy, 2012

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The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism by Edward Feser (2008)



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Dr. Edward Feser's book is one of the best ways for anyone — Catholic, Protestant, ... , atheist — to introduce themselves to the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas. By engaging a system of thought that heavily relies on modern assumptions (the new atheism), Dr. Feser effectively deconstructs the position and replaces it with an opposing, unified system that was popular for at least a millennium (classical theism). He rejects the over-exaggerated empiricism of "scientism" and replaces it with a more balanced system of rational inquiry, and as such is able to help the reader uncover the traditional understandings of God, the soul, etc., as framed within this worldview. After reading this book, you'll most likely become a Thomist — especially if you're already Catholic — and you ought to move on to his Aquinas: a Beginner's Guide. ( )
  charlescf | Aug 8, 2015 |
Quite frankly, this is one of my bibles – oft quoted and read for further help to master the philosophy behind my faith. There are rational proofs by which we can know with certitude that God exists; but the certitude of faith, which is based on the infallibility of the word of God, lies in Scripture

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’“
Exodus 3:13-14

Ego sum qui sum, is infinitely more reliable than all knowledge acquired by natural reason alone, no matter how evident it may be. In matters of revelation, error is absolutely impossible because the source of the knowledge of faith is God Himself, who is the Truth.

Not that long ago many of the current culture wars would have been laughed off as crackpot or extreme – now it is the faithful who are labeled such. To think that there was a time when atheists would have hidden their lights somewhat and said they believed in a “social gospel” and other code words. Now, Edward Feser, tells it:

“Atheist chic is now, out of the blue as it were, the stuff of best sellers, celebrity endorsements, and suburban reading groups. It is as if the urbane cocktail hour secularist liberalism of the twentieth century has, by way of the slow but sure inebriation produced by an unbroken series of social and judicial triumphs, now become in the twenty-first century fall-down-sloppy drunk and lost all inhibition, by turns blaspheming, whoring, and otherwise offending against all sane and decent sensibilities as the mood strikes it.”


Mr Feser is not for those often called dissenting or cafeteria Catholics, and who more accurately might be dubbed the “Catholic Otherwise Faithful.” I may be Catholic, but I’m not a maniac about it, runs their unofficial subtext -- meaning: I’m happy to take credit for enlightened Catholic positions on the death penalty/social justice/civil rights, but of course I don’t believe in those archaic teachings about divorce/homosexuality/and above all birth control...

No, he has identified and written a book he tells us is about error: “what the error is, why it is an error, what its consequences are, and how correcting it reveals that it is a (certain kind of) moral and religious traditionalist, and not the secular liberal, who is the true upholder of reason.”

Somehow somewhere the skeptics have blown by with the false assertion that religion is based on a “faith” that they have interpreted in a bastardized sense as “the will to believe something in the absence of evidence.” The most important thing, Mr. Feser assures us, is that “a belief in God it … is true, and demonstrably so.

Similarly, the most important thing to know about same-sex marriage, for example, is not that it has been lawlessly imposed by certain courts even though a majority of citizens happen to oppose it. The most important thing to know about it, states Professor Feser, is that the very idea is a metaphysical absurdity and a moral abomination, and (again) demonstrably so.” These are things as knowable as whether the Pythagorean Theorem is true of right triangles, or whether water has the chemical structure H2O.

What Feser tells us is needed to counteract the anti-religious and libertine madness of our present time in this fallen world, is not “some crude populism or some short-term political strategizing, but a rethinking of the relevant issues back to first principles.”

So read the book, learn those principles and go forth to preach the gospel and the thought of Thomas Aquinas. Perhaps then you too will be greeted with those words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”…

dj ( )
3 vote PATTSdotcom | Feb 13, 2011 |
The revival of Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics - the realism that gave rise to science is essential today. Feser shows this by example with various reductio ad absurdums like Eliminative Materialism in the philosophy of mind, and Singerian bestiality, necrophilia and same sex marriage in modern moral philosophy.

The New Atheists get the odd polemical punch in the head that they deserve but it really just a way of making topical what is immutable - the deliverances of right reason like Aquinas' third way. An argument that far from refuted was simply by passed for convenience and what was expedient then has wrought countless horrors that we alive today have to deal with.

In my top 5 books of all time. Its an intro philosophy course that at once saves many thousands of dollars one might spend on a futile modern philosophy qualification, hands the moral and philosophical heritage of the West to the reader in a rollicking easy to understand way and charts a course for the recovery of reason in all aspects of life. ( )
3 vote martin17773 | Dec 19, 2009 |
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 affirnmative. 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 consider 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. ( )
4 vote bespen | Jan 12, 2009 |
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In 2004 the philosopher Anthony Flew, who had been to that time perhaps the world's most prominent atheist, announced that he had changed his mind.
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