GUEST POST from Tru: Several critiques of Edward Feser and Aristotelian philosophy

Hey guys! Here’s something a little different tonight. A new commenter by the name of tru recently happened upon my posts on Aquinas (specifically, my critiques of Edward Feser’s “The Last Superstition” and “Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide”) and left some really thoughtful comments! You can see them in their original forms here:

https://gunlord500.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/against-aquinas-an-in-depth-critique-of-natural-law-ethics-theology-and-metaphysics/comment-page-1/#comment-1341

https://gunlord500.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/a-little-late-but-not-too-late-my-book-review-of-edward-fesers-the-last-superstition/comment-page-1/#comment-1340

They were so good I asked and received tru’s permission to feature them on the blog proper itself. Tru used translation software for a little bit of help turning their thoughts from German to English, so I’ve marked my own little corrections with brackets. So without further ado, here’s what could be considered the first “guest post” on this blog!

 

In “The Last Superstition”, Feser presents his stock-conservative Catholic views with passion, anger and malice. Unfortunately, in this way the book has become more of an extremely undifferentiated and extremely one-sided polemic than a serious, sober confrontation with interesting philosophical [insights] of Thomas Aquinas, which certainly are not known to everyone.

As an Aquinas expert, Feser should also know Aristotle like his own back pocket. But here he already commits a faux pas. From an arrogant attitude, he criticizes the modern secularists for the fact that, due to their narrow and limited view on metaphysical [matters], they know only one kind of change, namely local movement. But Aristotle had already realized that there were other kinds of change. As an example of another–quantitative change, Feser then refers to the case of water becoming one degree warmer or colder. This is a mistake (of course the quality had changed) that otherwise only a first semester philosophy student could make. The fact that something like this happens to a great admirer of Aristotle is somewhat strange. Feser also omits the important information that Aristotle ultimately attributes all kinds of change to local movement, as the mechanically thinking secularists in principle have always done. But not a word from Feser about it, not even about the fact that modern physics has already said goodbye to many mechanistic principles by itself.

(Gunlord note: Here, Tru makes a good point I hadn’t brought up–there are several different kinds of change, such as purely quantitative [Something’s temperature goes from X to X+1 or X-2 or whatever), but also qualitative [Something’s shape changes] and so on. It also seems that Aristotle’s explanation of change has to do with local movement more than Feser lets on, but I’m not as familiar with Aristotle’s original work as I am with Feser’s interpretation of him, so I’ll defer to Tru here).

 

Feser makes a lot of fuss about the fact that the secularists would not recognize the true basis of morality, more precisely the Platonic and Aristotelian forms. An immoral consequence of this misconception is the current high number of abortions worldwide, which are carried out without hesitation and without penal consequences. But Feser must keep one thing in mind. If even the fathers and discoverers (or only inventors?) of these philosophical forms/ideas could not see that infanticide (which they advocated under certain circumstances, especially in the case of disabilities and deformities) is something absolutely reprehensible, how can today’s secularists, who are extremely superficial in Feser’s eyes, let alone the uneducated, be capable of it?

Furthermore, Feser is not always completely honest with his readers. At least he often seems to keep important information behind the scenes. In the chapter about evil, Feser says that terrible suffering in this world is basically outweighed by eternally blessed visions in the hereafter. The victims of the Holocaust, for example, would not have suffered so much in vain. As a Catholic theologian, however, he must honestly admit that a very painful life alone is not enough to qualify as a promising candidate for a heavenly reward. One must at least be or have been a good Catholic, otherwise the papal church would make no sense in the end. Feser obviously could not bring [himself] to say that a Jew in a concentration camp who suffered terribly there and was tortured to death, perhaps even had to expect eternal hell (see also [the ruling] of the Council of Florence, 1442: [The Holy Roman Church …believes firmly, confesses and proclaims that no one outside the Catholic Church, neither pagan nor Jew nor unbeliever, or a person separated from unity, will participate in eternal life, but rather fall into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels if he does not join her [the Church] before death.)

Speaking of hell. According to Feser, nature wants us to give birth to many children. That’s why we should do it for moral reasons (natural law). But isn’t it a little cruel to irrevocably expose your children to the possible danger of ending up in hell? One can do one’s best in education, but the development of children is not always in the hands of parents. The children could fall away from their faith as adults and stand with one foot in the kingdom of Satan.

The first proof of God was not really convincing. What does it look like? I hold a stick in my hand with which I move a stone. This is a simultaneous causal series: arm, stick and stone, all moving simultaneously and in relation to each other. Feser believes that the series must end with a unmoved mover (immovable God). When it comes to determining which causal link is “in front” of the arm, Feser suddenly starts an [inward-looking] analysis. He comes to elementary forces, atoms and other physical properties. Why is Feser doing this? The inward-looking analysis still remains in the arm, I can zoom into it as deeply as I want, it does not lead us out of it. Either I go through the individual parts of the arm or I leave it completely in order to really expand the causal series. A third possibility is excluded. Moreover, it is surprising why Feser suddenly uses the language of modern physics, which actually contradicts his Aristotelian philosophy. I can also save myself the search for another link in the causal series and go straight to God. Whether there are still one or two things in between (i.e. between my arm and the unmoved mover) does not change anything about the conception of the supposed proof of God. But if I now fall back on God, he is also the one who moves my arm. That would only degrade me to a puppet of God. On the other hand, I could say that my intention moved my arm and with it the stick and the stone. So I no longer have to refer to God. The causal series ends with my intention, which has emerged spontaneously from my active will and has no (essential) cause, but a (accidental) reason for action. Feser’s argument merely showed that although there must be a primary mover, it only needs to be active in the respect that is relevant to the given case of movement. Nothing more. There is no reason to cite God for this, who according to Feser is active in every possible respect (pure actuality). This results in many worldly first movers, such as man, for example. Aristotle also saw it this way: “e.g. the stick moves the stone and is moved by the hand, which again is moved by the man: in the man, however, we have reached a [movement] that is not so in virtue of being moved by something else.” (Physics 256a-256b) The two other cosmological proofs of God (Aquinas names all proofs only paths to God) have already been refuted once and for all by Kant.

(Gunlord note: Here, Tru makes the point that the human soul could be considered a first mover, in a certain sense. This is something I’ve wanted to write more about for a little while, but it seems like Tru put it into words before I could–great minds think alike! I’ll credit Tru when I get the post up, eventually XD)

Feser’s weakest arguments can be found in the chapter on the universal acid. I expected much more from Feser. But so little came. The mere assumption of purpose and [formal] causes (which plants also have) should solve the profound problem of freedom of will in no time at all? This is downright ridiculous. Feser dedicates very few pages to this topic. But it is the most important and central theme of philosophy. If there is no free will, there is no morality. But any kind of essentialism (including Aristotelian) unfortunately excludes freedom of will in principle. Every essence (like that of the individual human being) can only act according to its essence, it cannot break through its essence (character and personality of a human being) without breaking itself. A genuine arbitrariness or freedom that somehow acts independently or outside of one’s own being is unthinkable (it would not be in our understanding a freedom that leads to responsibility, it would be determined by others, not self-determined), as well as one that occurs together with it as an inseparable unity (this would be logically absurd). Even the Thomistic conception that no potential (like certain potential human actions) can realize itself and thus requires something else from outside from which it is realized (circumstances that trigger those actions) makes it difficult to rationally grasp freedom of will. In the end, one must be content, for better or for worse, with a purely fideistic assumption of freedom of will.

The true universal acid, the really dangerous idea, is that of evolution. Dennett is right. If the theory of evolution is correct, then at least in the organic world there are no fixed Aristotelian forms. A squirrel, for example, with all its abilities and qualities, is a product of mercilessly brutal natural selection. And every generation of squirrels could undergo a change over time, which in turn would affect subsequent generations. Change would be part of their essence. Finally, man has evolved evolutionarily, so that even from a [hylomorphic] point of view it is no longer possible to speak of a metaphysical species of man (only of a biological species in a very loose sense). When it comes to morality, one can immediately ask oneself how nature in its organic form can at all be a firm and credible yardstick for moral action (that is what Feser assumes), if it is demonstrably subject to a constant evolutionary process?

I have noticed that Feser, who begins his book with explanations of Parmenides and arrives at Aquinas after a few stops, nevertheless, without intending to, returns in principle to the philosophy of Parmenides. For Parmenides there is only one existence, namely pure being, unique, indistinguishable and unchangeable, as Feser points out. Now one has to read what Feser has to tell about the God of Aquinas. To put it bluntly, it is the same as with Parmenides. The qualities of the Thomistic God are actually only different possibilities to refer to the sole pure being. While Parmenides speaks of illusions of diversity, Feser speaks of imperfect reflections in Aquinas. Feser’s course of argumentation, which runs through the entire book, thus takes a somewhat absurd turn. In the end, the God of Aquinas is the God of [the Eleatics], whom Feser had not really taken seriously and smiled at. This God in Thomistic garb would be, so to speak, a puppet player (already hinted at earlier) and we would be his puppets, which only really exist when he plays with them (if he should no longer play with them and throw them into a corner, he would have to look at them or at least think of them, otherwise they would immediately pass into nothingness). But while this God is playing, he falls into a strange deception, the deception that the puppets act on their own responsibility, autonomously and independently from him. He simply forgets while playing that he is pulling the strings, that he is solely responsible for every movement, power, existence, purposefulness, form and matter of the puppets. What is tragicomically added: For some reason (now as a blinded pseudo-viewer) their behavior doesn’t please him at all. The abstruse consequence is that he punishes them ( actually a part of himself) for it. The Thomistic God is not only the God of eleatics, but above all a God of self-deception.

The only thing that I can give Feser a halfway positive credit for is that he repeatedly points to important questions in philosophy, such as those concerning universals and teleology (questions that a philosopher or scientist cannot easily dismiss with a shrug of the shoulders).

There is one more thing I want to [address]. Feser’s constant complaints about modern times or modernity, that it has moved away from Aristotle to its great disadvantage, are not only somewhat annoying, but also partly inappropriate. For modern times did not simply distance itself from Aristotle without a goal. For various reasons it moved more in the direction of Plato again and took up elements and basic ideas of his philosophy in order to integrate them into its systems. These systems may have little in common with Plato’s philosophy here and there (if there ever was a closed one), but they must still be called Platonic (humanism or modern cosmology, for example, are or contain platonisms). Probably the current academic consensus also sees Plato (who is also highly esteemed by Feser) as the greater philosopher than Aristotle (who is completely anti-philosophy-of-language, anti-existential-philosophy, epistemologically totally naive and with outdated scientific assumptions), as seen in the Renaissance. Therefore Feser’s outcry actually echoes into nowhere.

[To return to] my criticism of the first way to God, I refer mainly to Scott McDonald ( Aquinas’s Parasitic Cosmological Argument), whom Feser also mentions and [who] seems to be a Catholic theologian.

“There is, however, another problem for the proof. Assuming that Aquinas can block a regress in the case of movers and things moved, why must the primary mover be not just unmoved, but unmovable? Aquinas thinks that if the mover of some moved thing is not itself moved, it is an unmovable mover (premises 5 and 7). What justification does he have for supposing that an unmoved mover is unmovable?

The sort of causal series he has in mind in the proof from motion has as a member
something, M, that is being moved. M’s going from being in potentiality with respect to some state S to being in actuality with respect to S needs to be explained by some primary mover, P.

All that is required of P is that it be in actuality with respect to S; P’s being in actuality with respect to S is what makes P the primary mover in this causal series ordered per se. So in order to count as a primary mover, as the stopping point in a causal series ordered per se, P must be unmoved (because it is in actuality) in the relevant respect. But it does not follow from this that P must be unmoved (and hence in actuality) in all respects. If P were in actuality in all respects, P would be absolutely unmoved and unmovable, but the fact that P is unmoved with respect to some state S does not entail that P is unmovable. Given that Aquinas’s argument so far has shown only that there must be some primary mover that is in actuality in the respect relevant to the particular case of motion at hand, it seems likely that there will be very many relatively uninteresting primary movers. The fire in our paradigm case seems to be a suitable primary mover, animals (or their souls) might be unmoved movers, and some of Aquinas’s own examples of causal series ordered per se apparently have human beings filling the role of primary mover, at least as Aquinas describes them. We might call fire, animals, human beings, and other natural unmoved movers (if there are any) mundane primary movers. The problem, then, is that the proof from motion gives us no reason to suppose there are any primary movers other than mundane primary movers.“

The first proof is questioned by many Thomists. Here is an example by George A. Blair in [“Another Look at St. Thomas’ ‘First Way’]:

“I do believe that in Thomism there is a valid argument for the existence of God, based on the distinction between essence and existence and its implications. But I think that it is time that Thomists stopped taking the Five Ways as something sacred, especially the First Way. Attempts to validate it only achieve the result of disguising the really valid argument, and making the valid argument appear less valid than it really is.“

Finally, [some remarks on natural law morality:]

I. My biggest problems I have with the classical thomistic theory of natural law are the following: In my opinion, natural law cannot be reconciled with some fundamental Christian ideas, nor with important findings of modern science. Contemporary theories of action and many philosophers of the mind would also have their great problems with natural law. Compatibility with the Christian doctrine of original sin? If the whole of nature is sinful, i.e. morally reprehensible in itself, how can it at all be a yardstick for truly moral action? Here a voice of a Bible Christian, which might be representative for many Christians: “For the Christian, however, nature is not the standard, because the world of nature is a fallen world, a world in rebellion against God and infected by sin and death. For a standard, we must look beyond nature to God.” (Rousas John Rushdoony) Feser does not go into this problem at all. How far does sin extend to him? The whole of nature or only certain parts of it or everything in the world except the spirit? Secretly, Feser seems, as I suspect, to represent a Pelagianism that completely denies an inherited original sin, the Augustinian original sin. In any case, for me one thing is certain: an ethic of natural law is only compatible with heretical Pelagianism. Compatibility with a moral ought? How can a moral ought be derived from the mere fact that almost all human organs and abilities are teleologically structured? Without the presence of at least one second being capable of self-reflection, I simply cannot have a ” ought “, let alone a moral one. A demand of another rational person is the essential premise for the fact that [her] will can reach me as ought. How does this logic of action look more precise? The first step would look something like this: For example, a person asks me for help by turning to me and saying, “Help me! Please” which means “I want you to help me”. I immediately understand that to mean that I should help her because she wants me to help her. Thus we have gone from a foreign will to a ought in me. We indeed need God as a morality demanding being, be it directly through a revelation or be it indirectly through the purposefulness of human nature. Therefore, in order to function at all, a sophisticated divine-command theory would have to be incorporated into natural law, so that God can somehow indirectly guide us to good action. Under the metaphysical conditions of Thomism, however, I see no possibility for this.

Moreover, we would be morally dependent on the complete arbitrariness of God. For he could have created another nature at will, thus another morality, and could still do so. If God orders nature teleologically, it remains unclear whether this order corresponds at all to his will [as it pertains to] how we have to behave. Even if it would correspond to his will in this sense, it remains questionable whether his demands on us are really morally binding, [or] whether they are at all morally good.

Compatibility with a monistic soul theory? If body and mind together form a true hylemorphistic unity, so that in the end physical processes influence the mind and vice versa, the question arises how one can be sure of the right insight into natural law. If someone suffers from a mental or physical illness and thinks he knows exactly what natural law should look like, how much faith can one give to that person? Diseases can affect both judgment and cognition. A blind person, for example, has his or her own access to things and their qualities. A severely manic-depressive person should not be too sure in questions of ethics, especially natural law ethics.

Serious epistemological difficulties of naive realism, which Aristotle advocates, are not even discussed here. Cultural influences, deep-rooted customs and traditions could also be further obstacles to grasping man’s true teleology unclouded and free of error. One example would be circumcision. Certain religions support this practice without any ifs or buts, even though, strictly speaking, it represents a mutilation of the sexual organ, i.e. [a] contrast to its teleology. That circumcision is an ethical offence would never be understood by these religions. A tradition thousands of years old has, so to speak, blinded them in this respect. Perhaps the Western world has also become partially blind through cultural patriarchy? Or later by postmodernism? Perhaps all people are simply without sight, including the Kantians, who cannot find access into Feser’s natural law? Or the natural lawyers are too blind to be able to say that there is no natural law. For Aristotle himself, recognizing a real purpose even from a physically and mentally healthy state was not a completely simple thing. The more the material is involved in the creation of an object, the more unclear the purpose can be for the scientist. Then one could ask oneself: “Do acting persons, for example, first have to ask zoological experts in order to find out what the nature of man contains?”

In order to avoid the epistemological problems, Aristotle had to accept a strict speculative body-mind dualism, so that a reliable recognizability of the beings of things is ensured in principle (a spirit in a living organism instead of in a Cartesian machine). Compatibility with biological evolution? How can nature in its organic form provide a solid and credible yardstick for moral action if it is proven to be subject to a constant evolutionary process that is mercilessly brutal. For some, nature is even subject to constant change in all its facets. However, one does not need to go that far to question natural law. Just the ability of an organism to survive and reproduce and the specific characteristics which go hand in hand with that ability and which have developed in the course of natural selection and can still change from generation to generation (already existing organs could either receive additional functions in the course of evolution or they could simply atrophy until complete inactivity) are unlikely to be helpful in moral decisions. Unless you are a follower of social Darwinism.

Apart from that, if you want to look at evolution as a guide to “find out how people should behave, we must first ask to what goal evolution is heading. (Robert Wright) But any goal would be based on pure speculation; and it looks more like there is no goal. In addition, natural law ethics would have to follow the course of human evolution, that is, in principle it would have to gradually adapt (This may be slow, but in theory it doesn’t change anything) to this course in order to remain up to date with the latest ethical standards (It remains to be seen whether it should stick to the average person or to extraordinary and exceptional people). However, this is not compatible with the idea of a single true, eternal, objective morality. The Book of Nature is not written down once and for all, it rewrites itself here and there. Even if all problems of the four mentioned points were solved, one would need a convincing proof of God on the one hand.

On the other hand, freedom of will should not only be proven, but also made comprehensible conceptually. Otherwise one would only have to postulate both, God and the freedom of will, and blindly rely on their existence. Since the concept of freedom of will is extremely problematic and no proof of God is ultimately convincing from a religiously neutral perspective, every moral theory is, for better or for worse, in a state of limbo.

(Gunlord note: Excellent points here, touching on something I want to get to later: Despite Feser’s attempts, essentialism, particularly in regards to morality, isn’t really compatible with evolutionary theory, which necessitates that the “Forms” or “Essences” of things constantly change over time. If a dinosaur possessed a certain essence in, say, 10 million BC that dictated certain things were bad for it, 10 million years later its descendants would have evolved into birds, whose essence now dictates that the formerly bad things are now good for it. It is obvious this has some rather dire implications for human morality, given how human beings have changed both physically and culturally over the years)

II. Feser confidently asserts the following sentence, which is of great ethical importance to him: “Every sexual act may only serve the purpose of reproduction”. For Feser, this sentence is apparently self-evident and immediately obvious as an axiom. But how can I reliably recognize that ejaculation may only take place in the vagina for the purpose of reproduction and nowhere else? How can I completely rule out that there are other purposes of sexuality? The fact that the ejaculate in the vagina often, but not too often (actually rather rarely), causes reproduction does not prove that there is only one natural purpose of the sexual act. There may be other natural forms of sexuality that serve other natural purposes. The Thomist basically cannot logically rule this out. At most he could say: It may be that there is still one or another purpose. Since I cannot see it myself, but only have the one who serves reproduction clearly in mind, I do not want to take any unnecessary moral risk. If, however, there are other forms of sexuality, one must admit that the realization of their specific purposes does not automatically lead to the frustration of the reproductive purpose. For this is no longer what matters at all at the moment another is realized. You can understand this better if you look into the animal kingdom, which [Aquinas] likes to do. In many cases the sexual behaviour of animals is not only about reproduction. The least that can be said on this subject is that a sexual stimulation that an animal carries out on itself or that is brought about by members of the same species (whether heterosexual or homosexual) is quite normal in the animal world without there being a reproductive purpose. And sometimes the sodomitic activities of the animals even lead to a wasted ejaculation, as with the orangutans. Of particular interest is the case of a desert squirrel (Cape Ground Squirrels) where males occasionally perform autofellatio. After an ordinary copulation with a female, the male satisfies himself orally and swallows his own seed. The purpose of this procedure, according to the researchers, is to clean the semen ducts and ureters. An infection is to be avoided thereby. Urine would be too expensive and a waste of liquid. One can now make a simple thought experiment with that squirrel, which is just satisfying itself, by giving it “from the outside” a spirit, which, according to Aristotle, also comes “from the outside” in humans. Thus the male with his new consciousness can encounter moral mines in every one of his actions. After ejaculation, however, one cannot accuse him of having violated the purpose of reproduction and thus sinned. This would be ridiculous. Reproduction really didn’t play a role at that moment. The cleaning purpose was alone given and decisive.

Let the female bonobos also have a spirit [a rational ability to talk to us] and ask them if they would cross something in their nature if they rub their clitoris together to orgasm. From their point of view, their sexual behaviour would reduce social tensions and build social bonds. That would be more than justified teleologically. For Aquinas, too, there is the higher purpose of sociability and the social. [Sin is not a] teleological deviation if it serves a legitimate higher purpose.

In my opinion one could assume three further equal purposes of sexuality besides reproduction, which do not seem abstruse or far-fetched, but correspond to a certain Common Sense. And what has been said before would also apply to them, namely that as soon as one of these purposes is pursued and fulfilled, the others do not play a role, because in principle they did not exist at that moment, so that they were not up for debate. Moreover, for logical reasons, an activity can have only one particular final cause at a particular time. The proposition of contradiction excludes that several purposes can belong to the same thing at the same time:

1. personal maturity: if you want to start a family responsibly, you should definitely have reached a certain degree of maturity beforehand. Everyone would agree to that. It is now undeniable that the process of personal maturation, along with many other very important factors, includes everything sexual, including sexual activities that are not linked to marriage or reproduction. It is therefore expressly stated: “Sexual development is a part of personality development and begins with birth”. Experts also say that psychosexual development cannot be separated from cognitive maturation processes. Even in infancy, a lot happens in the sexual sphere, which Freud recognised at his time. Dry orgasms come about through masturbation or randomly fitting body positions, both in boys and girls. With the onset of puberty, boys then experience nocturnal, often involuntary ejaculations, in which nature itself, incidentally, would have to thwart its own purposes on a gigantic scale. Then one matures above all in contact with other children, which also includes the encounter with the opposite sex, an encounter which will inevitably have a sexual touch. Feser could hardly deny that one has to bring a certain personal maturity into a marriage in order for it to become reasonably stable. Many yery young men have to „to sow one’s wild oats” before they are ready for the bond of marriage. I don’t think Feser will want to say that a thirteen-year-old boy who “makes out” with a thirteen-year-old girl is immediately committed to reproduction and marriage. It’s clear that this can’t have a future and is part of the Coming of Age process. Nature has “theoretically” already given them the physical sexual maturity and a minimum of intelligence for a marriage, but the personal maturity is still completely lacking. When this personal maturity is attained one day, it also disappears from the stage as the final cause, so to speak. Until then, however, much could be safely subordinated to it. Only every healthy person attains it at a slightly different age and by different means. If you look at the sexual development of humans from 1 – 12 years of age, you can hardly speak of violations of natural law in these phases.

(Gunlord note: Tru’s comments about nocturnal emission are *precisely* a point I plan to make in another work, though I hadn’t spoken to him before these comments and I’ve been working on that other thing for quite a while! Great minds do think alike…I guess I’ll have to give him some credit in a footnote, just to be safe XD)

2. love: The human being is perhaps primarily a spiritual, emotional and erotic being and secondarily an animal and voluptuous one. The spiritual, emotional and erotic union between two people, which can happen in the sexual act, but does not have to, is an expression of true love and affection. Feser introduces this purpose only very briefly, without illuminating it further, let alone justifying it, so that it appears like a strange, curious element in his remarks on sexual morality. The purpose of union can be considered either as equal to the purpose of reproduction or only secondary like any other tender action that does not directly serve the purpose of reproduction. However, if it were merely secondary, it would either have to be completely negligible, so that it would not matter whether married couples love each other at all. Or it is an obligatory means for reproductive purposes such as ejaculation in the vagina. I do not think that either would be in Feser’s interest. Ergo the purpose of love is equal to the purpose of reproduction. From a Catholic married couple who are bound together forever by a single sexual act, but who since this act cannot stand each other to the death, but nevertheless does not want to renounce sex, one cannot demand the spiritual, emotional and erotic purpose of union. It is well known that love as a feeling cannot be enforced. Anything else would be simply and poignantly absurd, whereby that marriage is already based on an absurd foundation.

3. health: sex is proven to be healthy for body and mind. It strengthens the immune system, counteracts depression and reduces frustration. This alone represents a higher purpose than mere pleasure and fun. Aristotle also acknowledges the purpose of health under certain circumstances, when he says: “So four or five years after reaching this age limit [55 years] one should abstain from the production of children to be publicly recognized and show for the consequence that one only performs conjugal intercourse for the sake of health or for any other reasonable reason”. And also in Thomistic natural law, self-preservation, by which one must primarily understand the preservation of one’s own health, is a higher purpose to which one can temporarily sacrifice various bodily functions. Feser brings only a radical example of a necessary amputation of a limb to stay alive. But what would he say about a semen sample that you absolutely need if you are to undergo a vital examination? Now the Thomists have ethically placed reproduction above self-preservation, making it more important than self-preservation. Feser does not give any good reasons for this.

For me, the sentence: “Every sexual act may only serve the purpose of reproduction” is not an axiomatic premise, but a possible conclusion from different premises. At the end of Feser’s remarks, a reason is finally given why sexuality must not use the genitals for purposes other than those for which they were intended. The brief justification is as follows: it is a matter of preserving the human species. Therefore, no exceptions are tolerated with regard to sex. Unfortunately, Feser does not go to any trouble to explain this in more detail. Perhaps he suspects that he might find himself in an argumentative circle: Why is the preservation of the species important? Because sex is aimed at the preservation of the species. Why should I not undermine the possibility of reproduction during sex? Because the preservation of the species is essential. The preservation of the species justifies sex and sex justifies the preservation of the species. One justifies the other and vice-versa. As I said, such a justification would be the pure circle. In my opinion, it is indeed hidden in [Aquinas’] reasoning. Elsewhere, however, Aquinas says that his ethics are simply self-evident and therefore need no logical justification. As with Moses, a “That is so, no objection!” is simply created in the moral sphere.

Aquinas brings two examples of harmless misuse: Walking on the hands or using the legs and feet as arm and hand replacements. According to Aquinas these are small sins or no sins at all. Feser gives an example, not directly for a misappropriation, but for an action which is directed against a purpose of the body, namely when one tries to clean one’s ears with ear sticks, although the ear cleans itself. According to Feser, the danger of destroying an important sense organ in the artificial cleaning process is only a small sin? If I scratch my eye with a pencil, would that be just as insignificant? Be that as it may, purposes of bodily functions can in fact be frustrated without much sin, or some bodily organs can be misappropriated if the overall human good is not damaged. I think Aquinas understands human good as self-preservation, reproduction, social life, and sainthood.

In my opinion, however, the purpose of sexual bodily [functions] cannot be frustrated (which means the same to me here: the sexual parts of the body cannot be misappropriated) because two premises stand in the way:
1) One should preserve the human species, i.e. reproduce.
2) The male seed potentially contains the complete body of the human being. So the animal soul/form of man is already completely contained in the seed.
According to Anthony Kenny, many believed in the past that the individual body existed before conception in the form of the fatherly seed (The biblical figure Onan, for example, spilled his seed on the ground, which in Jewish tradition was regarded not only as a kind of sexual pollution, but also as a violation of life itself). Aristotle thought very similarly. And why should that be only a small insignificant detail for Aquinas and the Thomists who adopt this train of thought? Aquinas treats masturbation and contraception as crimes against humanity, mind you, right after murder. Such a view is understandable in the context of a belief that, biologically speaking, only the male sex is the active element in conception, so that the semen is an early stage of the same individual who is eventually born. Masturbation is then, to a lesser extent, the same thing as an infant’s exposure. But the view that masturbation is a form of murder cannot remain, given today’s knowledge, since both male and female germ cells contribute equally to the genetic constitution of the offspring.
Premises 1 and 2 and only these together could, if at all, in my opinion lead to the ethically weighty conclusion: “Every sexual act may only serve the purpose of reproduction! Anything else would be a sin! If you drop both, however, the sexuality that prevents reproduction is obviously on the same moral level as running on your hands or cleaning your ears with cotton swabs, which is harmless to Feser. Sex for mere fun would therefore be a morally very minor matter. What happens if you only maintain the first premise, since the second one has already been scientifically refuted? The first premise is so unspecific and general that it does not logically follow that any sexual act must only serve reproduction. It is well known that the preservation of the species is also subject to other factors, such as the environment and politics; and factors such as personal maturity, health and material resources must also be considered. What is important is that, as a general rule, all human beings should, sooner or later, be expected to reproduce, and if it is intended to do so, then only in circumstances conducive to the preservation of humanity. What would not be possible and, moreover, immoral would be: self-castration, total avoidance of child making in long, prosperous and fruitful marriages, homosexual marriage and the priestly vow of virginity, whereby all woman are avoided and the sexual organ is left atrophied. Independent of all this, the premise itself is problematic. Anti-Natalism provides convincing arguments for this, whereby the first premise becomes invalid.

III. Further, somewhat less weighty, points of criticism of classical Thomistic natural law are the following: Why does [Aquinas] look [counterfactually] into human life when he wants to determine the nature of man? That makes no sense. Therefore, many of his assumptions are contrary to those of evolutionary psychologists, who really strive to capture human nature scientifically. Aquinas, when making ethical theses, seem to make moralistic fallacies that are similar to naturalistic fallacies. With the moralistic fallacy, however, the opposite is the case: from what ought to be we draw conclusions about what is. X should be. That is why X is. X should not be. Therefore, X is not. This occurs when, contrary to empirical experience, human nature is inferred from beliefs and worldviews. A concrete example: Adultery and promiscuity are wrong. Consequently, we have no biological predisposition for several sexual partners. While adultery and promiscuity may be considered morally wrong, this has no influence on the biological aspects of humans, which could include promiscuity.

The teleology of a partnership, a love partnership in which one should meet at eye level, is perhaps more realized with homosexual couples than with heterosexuals. Just think of Plato, for whom there can only be true love between men. One could say that homosexual couples miss the natural law in sexual respect, but fulfill it in a partnership respect. For heterosexual couples, it would be the other way round (If you doubt it, all you have to do is watch old talk show footage). There should be no reason why the partnership aspect of an official marriage or a normal love relationship should not have its own teleology. It should not be forgotten that most of the time of living together is spent without sex. Thus sexual deviation is marginal at least under the aspect of time.

Devils and demons, real existing beings for Catholics, also have their own teleological nature (for example, deceptive abilities that can only be applied to humans). Now this nature leads them to actions, which from our point of view are reprehensible, but from their point of view probably good, at least they correspond to their nature. Then perhaps there is no universal good?

Aristotle is far from developing a theory of subjectivity, but there is a place in his work where he comes a little closer to such a theory. There he talks about a person’s anger and transfers his famous form/matter distinction to it. The felt anger itself is the form and the bubbling of the blood the matter of this human activity and state (one can only think both together). If, however, every form always implied an purposefulness and every affect or inner inclination would also be a form, this would clearly have to be of natural law relevance. Thus Emmett Barcalow’s following remarks would be fully justified:

“It may be that human beings, or at least male human beings, are naturally aggressive and prone to violence. After all, war and fighting seem to be such universal pastimes of men in all ages that one might conclude that the inherent nature of male human beings includes a strong tendency to behave violently. If that is so, should men act in accordance with their inherent nature or should they try to resist their inherent natural tendencies? Similarly, many people believe that the image of childhood as a time of innocence and purity is sentimental nonsense. In their view, children are inherently cruel and are brought to extinguish or control their inherent cruelty only through education and socialization. Consider the tendency of children to mercilessly taunt or bully those who are weaker than or different from themselves. We might maintain that the purpose of moral education is not to encourage people to give their inherent natures free rein but rather to tame their inherent natures. Similarly, suppose that human beings are inherently selfish or primarily self-interested and that altruism is not in accordance with the inherent nature of human beings. If this were true, would it follow that altruism is immoral and contrary to reason because it is not in accordance with the inherent nature of human beings?“

What if I fall intensely in love and resist this pursuit for superstitious or other reasons? Is that compatible with natural law? Is falling in love, which I have consciously allowed, already the point of no return in the teleology of sexuality, as Catholicism understands it, and thus also of marriage? According to Feser, sex begins very imprecisely with sexual arousal (an inner state) and ends with ejaculation in the vagina (a purely external event). Establishing such a point seems to be an impossible undertaking (Feser dogmatically assumes a Platonic idea of sexuality without being able to fully define it). And yet the natural lawyer does need this point, from which there is no turning back in the physical approach between man and woman, no more possibility to say stop, and consequently only the duty exists to lead the semen very soon into the vagina (otherwise it would not be a problem if Tantra grandmasters have an orgasm during sex without ejaculating).

What about lesbian love? It may not be negatively affected by natural law. Because it would be nothing more than an exchange of tenderness, which should not be forbidden by natural law. Do women then possibly have a special status under natural law because their clitoris does not directly contribute to a pregnancy? Is there perhaps no equality in natural law if it turns out that the nature of women is a little different from that of men? You can also take a look at the phenomenon of tongue kissing. The tongue kiss may have a slightly different purpose for the man than for the woman. For the man it is a means to make the woman submissive to the sexual act. For the woman, it is, so to speak, a ” taste “, whether the man is the “right one”. for a long-term relationship. So under Feser’s conditions an executed and correctly completed sexual act would not necessarily be obligatory for a woman as it is for a man. If the “chemistry isn’t right”, she could quickly veto it and prevent any form of physical contact.

The Thomistic ethics of natural law is based above all on the Aristotelian idea that all things in nature act according to final causes. However, to discern the ultimate purpose of a thing can neither succeed a posteriori nor a priori. Every assumption of a certain purpose always remains hypothetical. It always remains open whether there is not another purpose (or a further one or none at all) or even a superordinate one, which stamps the first assumed one to a mere means. This is also Kant’s view, for which there are neither a priori nor empirical reasons for the assumption of regularity by purposes, which prove the reality of these purposes. The Bible also denies the possibility of fathoming the essence of things (Aquinas himself says that he is a man of only one book, the Bible.): “No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.”( Ecclesiastes 8:17)

According to Kant, a teleological view, in the sense of an analogous procedure, can be used for natural research when mechanistic laws are no longer sufficient to provide an explanation. Therefore teleology becomes indispensable, especially because one does not have to hope to understand “the production of even a single grass from mere mechanical causes” (Kant). But as an analogy, the principle also experiences its limits: To explain nature with purposes in an objective sense would be an overbearing assumption. Aristotle and Aquinas assume that the bodies of nature always, or mostly, strive for and effect the best. According to them, all things should have the best teleological goal for themselves. In order to be able to say what is best for a piece of iron, for example, one would somehow have to know in advance what is best for all inorganic things such as metals. But how should I know beforehand what the best thing is for a piece of iron under any circumstances? I could say that iron always makes the best of itself in any situation, no matter what it’s doing. When I say that, however, I introduce an aspect of value into a necessity without first having looked for good reasons for this new step. However, iron is iron qua iron and therefore does everything it does in its specific way, because it is iron. There is a pure necessity here (teleological or not), which in and of itself is value-free. According to Aristotle, a piece of iron wants to reach its natural place in the center of the universe. Because the stay at this place is good or best for that iron in terms of value. Now Aristotle could know all this neither a priori nor a posteriori. He had only suspected it from his ultimately false and speculative cosmology, so that the idea of a natural place in this form is no longer tenable. However, according to Kurt Flasch, Aquinas needs this “hidden aspect of value” in order to “see” the “first changer” as God. For Aquinas, change is “the realization of a meaningful form. With another “concept of natural processes, even an evil demon could preside over the value-free, even worthless changes” (Kurt Flasch). However, if teleology is exaggerated, i.e. if the causes of effects and the causes of purposes are not kept strictly apart and even both, including the value aspect, are united, this would have fatal consequences for natural law. It would then simply be dismissed as an ethical theory. After all, everything in the world would happen as it should, and for the best. One could, simply put, not do anything wrong anymore and not speak of mistakes, deformities or abnormalities in nature (this thought is basically given in the concept of providence). And it actually looks as if Feser, without being aware of it, was getting into this exaggeration due to all the worship of purpose and lost himself in it irretrievably.

Moreover, one always remains anthropomorphic, i.e. narrow and small, in teleological thinking. According to Fritz Mauthner, Aristotle even managed to make his teleological scale of values even narrower, even smaller. According to Mauthner, the value judgement is basically “the weak point of teleology”. “For example, Aristotle estimates animals according to their similarity to humans. But then the male sex alone gives the standard, and the woman appears as a mutilation of the man. And again the free Greek gives the standard, and the slave appears as a born slave, inferiorly created by nature. There it cannot be surprised if there are also inferior numbers, inferior veins, inferior dimensions; in front is more valuable than behind, above is more valuable than below”. (Fritz Mauthner)

In its argumentation, natural law proceeds in three steps, all of which, without exception, are highly problematic: Assigning purpose, attaching value and deriving a moral imperative. The Thomists would like to equate these single steps as much as possible, which only makes the whole thing very vague. Even the first step to accept a purpose in nature is not easy. The jump from purposes to comparative value judgements is even more problematic (also because a value stands in a double relation, on the one hand to the evaluator and on the other hand to something else). The quality standards of Aristotle, for example, which serves as a comparative value, are completely unreflected. He started from an unquestioned, time-related anthropology, probably from his proud feeling of being a Greek man and from social usefulness at that time. One could say, however, that the slightly deviant is the good, the discreet deviator is to be taken as the yardstick of the good (like Aristotle himself was one with respect to Plato or the religious custom of his polis). For without deviations there was and is no progress. At the end of the day, value assessment in one way or another is a purely subjective process, shaped by predominant ideologies, religions, philosophies, the state of the sciences, in short the zeitgeist. The most problematic, however, is the leap from comparative value judgements to non-comparative ought judgements (one could perhaps at best win recommendations from value judgements). Because the naturalistic fallacy takes immediate effect here. From a purpose which I consider to be good, and which I only suspect in nature (to be true), to conclude to a commandment which is valid for all human beings (to be valid), falls more than ever before victim to the said fallacy. My conclusion: In natural law there is clearly a false objectivity.

[To expand a bit on Mauthner’s thoughts:]

Mauthner has written a polemic book about Aristotle´s philosophy and reception in general, not specifically about his ethics. But Aristotle himself has not yet drafted an ethics of natural law. Aristotle’s ethics include only a virtue/happiness ethic and an ethic determined by the needs of the polis. The idea of natural law was originally conceived by the Stoics. Aquinas linked Stoic thought with Aristotle and Christianity, without asking himself if and how these elements could be united. He simply put them together.

Mauthner’s short book is simply called Aristotle. You can find it here. https://archive.org/details/aristotle00maut/page/10

Mauthner’s thoughts on metaphysics, including those of Aristotle, can be found in his major works: “Beiträge zu einer Kritik der Sprache” (Contributions to a Critique of Language) und “Wörterbuch der Philosophie” (Dictionary of Philosophy). To my taste, Mathner is too nominalistic. Every possibility of knowledge is dismissed. Only pragmatic communication and poetic speaking remains, the rest is silence. But he is a very clever guy. You will find a very good book about him in English by Gershon Weiler: Mauthner’s Critique of Language 1970 Cambridge.

Because you have inspired me in your remarks on natural law, I will not withhold further thoughts I have from you and your readers. which could also contribute to the discussion, as it seems that you have invested a great deal into this topic.

So here’s some loose thoughts. I hope they’re understandable because I’m not a native English speaker:

Practiced homosexuality is rejected by natural law. What it cannot reject, however, is homoeroticism.

Possible purposes of an erect penis: From an evolutionary-biological point of view one needs such a penis for scooping out foreign ejaculate from the vagina or for penis fencing as a homosexual or homoerotic social game or for an impressive display behaviour taking place in front of women. Theologically, it may be a means of morally proving oneself in order to stand up to devilish sexual seduction in an inner struggle. Perhaps our Western culture has only obscured these goals? Perhaps our Western culture has only veiled these purposes?

In principle, sexual contraception is already established in the animal world among the sperm-selecting females (this can be found under the keyword: cryptic female choice).

According to Feser, nature wants me to make many babies. But it also wants me to have long hair and long fingernails, in other words, to become a tousle-head.

Alcohol consumption for amusement is a clear offence against natural law. Willingly expose oneself to poisoning, which leads to the fact that one only has silliness in mind or becomes very aggressive, cannot be brought into harmony with natural law. That would be something that many Catholics who like to drink alcohol would never understand. The Thomist may perhaps point to the natural-law purpose of sociability, which is promoted by alcohol consumption. But this kind of sociability has little value, because it only has a dull, seemingly happy, unbridled and primitive quality. The drunk is only for a short moment pleasing to each person present (the next day it looks different again), he is quickly tempted to embarrassment, looking for a wife with ridiculous approaches and everything that comes out of his mouth are just empty promises, bad jokes or stinging remarks.

The natural lawyer would have to show how to make a list of moral commandments in a believable [hierarchical] order (for example: murder is the worst offence and is therefore the highest priority, then follows theft, then comes sodomy, etc.). No one would say that all possible transgressions of natural law that man can commit would be morally equivalent. That would have [absurd] consequences. A further question arises when considering which misconduct would be a matter for the state, i.e. a criminal offence. Should adultery again become a serious illegal offence? Or even homosexual anal intercourse? Should the attempted suicide be punished again?

Can natural law achieve something beyond sexual questions that other theories of ethics cannot? Can natural law serve as a legal basis? Can it tell us which form of society (socialism, capitalism, democracy, monocracy, monarchy) is best? Perhaps socialism fits best with natural law? (Just think of Plato’s state, in which man cannot be free because of his nature.)

Natural law makes biblical moral commandments superfluous. For whom then are the biblical commandments, if natural law is to be so clear and unambiguous after all? For the less intelligent? Does Feser actually advocate a philosophical education for all people? Does he have a democratic educational ideal? Strangely enough, according to Aquinas, natural law is intended only for spiritual, intellectual people. The common people must adhere to the revelations. But how can an ethical theory that claims general validity for everyone be just one for a few specialists?

A man should not divorce, especially if he has just fathered a child. Without him, his child would quickly become poor. So [says] Thomistic ethics. But if a man suddenly wants to lead a holy life, he can leave his wife and child immediately without any problems. A holy life justifies the impoverishment of the child, about which the natural lawyers were concerned to the highest degree shortly before. This includes a very bizarre moral rationale. The end justifies the means here (This principle of natural law, however, is simply pushed aside by the question of artificial insemination). If there is a highest purpose for human nature, as Thomism claims, namely holiness, then this purpose should not be disregarded by anyone. The following should apply to everyone: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) The highest purpose cannot simply be an option. Because it corresponds in the last consequence to our innermost being, at least according to Thomism.

The Christian ethics par excellence, the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount thus, has almost nothing to do with natural law ethics. The Sermon on the Mount proclaims a pure ethics of mind and conviction. One only has to look at the passages from Matthew chapter 5,1-7,29, then one can ask oneself what they have to do with natural law. Namely, nothing. Also Jesus Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12) no connection. In the Golden Rule, reference is made to one’s own will, which is precisely not the procedure of natural law ethics.

The Thomists often cannot decide what is more important in an action: the mere attitude or the realization of an external form. Sometimes it is so, another time so. Everything very inconsistent. What is, by the way, with the one who adheres strictly to natural law only for fear of hell? Kant would say that his compulsive actions were only outwardly moral, but not out of a respectful appreciation of moral laws, because there is no genuine moral motive. Natural law would actually have to be characterized consistently as something purely external, the observance of which is also something purely external, so that the internal, the motive, intention and attitude of a person is irrelevant. In this way, one would have no difficulty in distinguishing a couple who uses calendars for contraception (ok for Catholics) from another who uses condoms (sinful for Catholics). Because both couples would be completely identical in their attitude. On the other hand, there are no external differences between suicidal martyrdom and “normal” suicide, so that one should not approve of any form of suicide.

At times one seems to be more important than the other, in another context the other way around. Sometimes so, other times so. All very inconsistent. What is, by the way, with the one who adheres strictly to natural law only for fear of hell? Kant would say that his compulsive actions were only outwardly moral, but not out of a respectful appreciation of moral laws, because there is no genuine moral motive. Natural law would actually have to be characterized consistently as something purely external, the observance of which is also something purely external, so that the internal, the motive, intention and attitude of a person is irrelevant. In this way, one would have no difficulty in distinguishing a couple who use calendars for contraception (ok for Catholics) from another who use condoms (sinful for Catholics). Because both couples would be completely identical in their attitude. On the other hand, there are no external differences between suicidal martyrdom and “normal” suicide, so that one should not approve of any form of suicide.

On the one hand, Feser makes strange concessions in his version of natural law. Both oral sex and anal sex (Feser doesn’t mention this one, but strictly speaking he should be counted as one as well) may belong to the sexual foreplay without any problems, according to Feser, as long as the ejaculation happens in the vagina at the end. But teleologically, the penis has lost nothing in the woman’s mouth, let alone in her backside. One must not forget. Feser had vehemently pointed out that it was completely obvious, even for the most blinded person, that the erect penis fits perfectly into the vagina, and therefore only belongs there. Here is another serious concession: sterile couples may have sex with each other, although they know that fertilisation is impossible because perhaps the woman has no uterus or the man no longer has testicles. But they should at least pretend to have children during sex, which means that the sex must end with some kind of ejaculation in the vagina. Anything else would be totally sinful. It can’t be any more absurd. Here Feser is morally much too lax. Natural law must clearly prohibit sexual intercourse when one knows that the other is demonstrably infertile, since the maintenance of the human species is crucial. Furthermore: Why should the couple pretend so. That makes no sense. If certain organs are missing, there can no longer be purposes for them. When I have no eyes, I am not obliged to pretend that I can see with them. It would only be a superstitious adherence to a mere external form or order of things. On the other hand, in some places Feser is again morally too rigorous. The adherence to an undissolvable monogamous marriage, although the husband could perhaps still provide for many women without problems and raise many children in an exemplary manner, and although his present children have grown up and become independent, is not rationally comprehensible. Therefore one can confidently say here: “One must, for example, endow the nature of man with abundant late Western cultural assets in order to be able to justify monogamous marriage or even its indissolubility” (Max Ernst Meyer) Non-serial monogamy and anti-polygamy do not belong to the nature of man from the point of view of evolutionary psychologists. Even if one were a natural lawyer, one could not accept Feser’s version. Is there any prospect of determining an objective criterion in order to agree on a uniform version of natural law? There is none because there is no objective criterion.

One can also quote Nietzsche on this subject (Beyond good and evil):

“So you want to live “according to nature?” Oh, you noble Stoics, what a fraud is in this phrase! Imagine something like nature, profligate without measure, indifferent without measure, without purpose and regard, without mercy and justice, fertile and barren and uncertain at the same time, think of indifference itself as power – howcould you live according to this indifference? Living – isn’t that wanting specifically to be something other than this nature? Isn’t living assessing, preferring, being unfair, being limited, wanting to be different? And assuming your imperative to “live according to nature” basically amounts to “living according to life” – well how could you not? Why make a principle out of what you yourselves are and must be? – But in fact, something quite different is going on: while pretending with delight to read the canon of your law in nature, you want the opposite, you strange actors and self-deceivers! Your pride wants to dictate and annex your morals and ideals onto nature – yes, nature itself –, you demand that it be nature “according to Stoa” and you want to make all existence exist in your own image alone – as a huge eternal glorification and universalization of Stoicism! For all your love of truth, you have forced yourselves so long, so persistently, and with such hypnotic rigidity to have a false, namely Stoic, view of nature, that you can no longer see it any other way, – and some abysmal piece of arrogance finally gives you the madhouse hope that because you know how to tyrannize yourselves – Stoicism is self-tyranny –, nature lets itself be tyrannized as well: because isn’t the Stoic a piece of nature? . . . But this is an old, eternal story: what happened back then with the Stoics still happens today, just as soon as a philosophy begins believing in itself. It always creates the world in its own image, it cannot do otherwise; philosophy is this tyrannical drive itself, the most spiritual will to power, to the “creation of the world,” to the causa prima.”

Arthur Schopenhauer, the infamous great pessimist and friend of a teleological (but not theological) view of the world, interprets nature as a blind, instinctive will to live. But instead of saying that self-preservation and reproduction are moral goals, as one would expect in natural law, he comes to the opposite conclusion. The pursuit of self-preservation and reproduction is a painful process in all respects. This suffering can never be eliminated, not even for the shortest moment. This is simply due to the nature of the will itself, which can never be satisfied because of its ceaselessly striving desire, and to the fact that there are other wills in the world which will inevitably frustrate its goals. Life is therefore clearly a bad thing for Schopenhauer. Unfortunately, it cannot be avoided that it can only be regarded as bad. Accordingly, there can only be one ethical way, namely to deny the will (one’ s own essence) through asceticism and quietism. Schopenhauer’s essentialism can therefore not be a direct guideline for morality. As a natural lawyer, you probably have to be a philosophical optimist to be convincing at all. So even as a telelogy proponent (in a non-theological sense), as an essentialist and as a Platonist of some kind, if you’re pessimistic enough, you can strictly reject natural law. Because not to be (not being) would be better than to be (being). In the same sense, one would not be able to convince Buddhists of natural law.

 

Additionally, Tru also made a couple of other recommendations:

I can recommend another essay by a critic of natural law. You can find it here:

An Examination of the Thomistic Theory of Natural Moral Law by Kai Nielsen

https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1038&context=nd_naturallaw_forum

I think that when dealing with Thomism you have to assume two ideas.

One is what Kenny writes: „As a philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas is both overvalued and undervalued. He is overvalued by those who regard him as a unique source of philosophic truth, whose ideas can only be adapted and never superseded by later thought and discovery. He is undervalued by those who think of him as being, outside theology, no more than an erratic commentator on Aristotle.“ (AQUINAS: A Collection of Critical Essays, EDITED BY ANTHONY KENNY INTRODUCTION)

Then what Schopenhauer says about the concept of value, namely that it is already relative in definition:

“Every worth is a comparative quantity, and it stands moreover in a double relation: first, it is relative, in that it is for someone, and secondly, it is comparative, in that it is in comparison with something else according to which it is evaluated. Displaced from these two relations, the concept worth loses all sense and meaning.“ (ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER: The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics – Prize essay on the basis of morals)

In this way, if one keeps an eye on these two points, one will not be able to be misled by the whole Thomistic affair.

 

Quite an impressive set of comments! I’m definitely happy to have readers like this. In the future, maybe I’ll come up with a more particular way of soliciting and processing guest posts, these comments were a great read.

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69 comments

    1. Supplement to the first proof of God from “The Last Superstition”. With this proof, Feser suddenly starts an inwardly going analysis in order to arrive at an unmoved mover (wrongly equated by Feser with an immovable mover). He arrives at elementary forces, atoms and other physical properties. Why does he do this? The inward-directed analysis still remains in the arm, I can zoom into it as deeply as I want, it does not lead us out of it. Either I go through the individual parts of the arm or I leave it completely in order to really expand the causal series. A third possibility is excluded. Moreover, Feser no longer clearly distinguishes the Aristotelian efficient cause from the Aristotelian material cause. This gives Feser the absurd impression that the atoms or molecules of the arm take on the role of an efficient cause, which then is meant to bring about the arm as supposedly something else, even though these specific atoms or molecules merely constitute this specific arm as a material cause, i.e. belong to its form of identity.
      Why the inward analysis using the example of the arm? In order to escape the clear objections of a Scott McDonald, for example, Feser starts, out of the blue, from 2 additional assumptions, one of which is unproven and the other highly problematic because it contradicts Aristotelian terminology.
      1st assumption: The infinite divisibility of substances, which Feser first should prove before he talks any further. For if they were not infinitely divisible, one would then come to the last monadic things (Feser mentions, for example, forces), which in a certain respect could be self-moving and active and actual. Feser just does not want that.
      2nd assumption: It concerns the so-called part-whole relationship of substances. Feser suddenly sees the relationship of the parts to the whole as a relationship of efficient causality. The parts are the efficient cause and the Hylemorphic whole would be effected accordingly. But this is anything but Aristotelian. In Aristotle’s case, this relationship is clarified by the formal and material cause and not, as Feser assumes, by the efficient cause. The efficient cause of a rubber ball is not its parts and atoms or anything else, the efficient cause is the factory worker, machines, etc.
      In fact, the first way to God would work if both problematic assumptions were accepted. But the result would not be pleasing anyway. We humans would still have no independence and would be mere puppets.

      1. A god would, of course, stop the infinite regress. Therefore, the proof, assuming the additional assumptions, would work.

      2. “Feser suddenly sees the relationship of the parts to the whole as a relationship of efficient causality.”

        If anything, it would be exactly the other way around in the case of a movement (the uniform, active and actual soul/form would move the body). The hylemorphic unity is, according to Aristotle, the main thing. Yet the concept of the self-movement of a human soul, an animal, a mushroom, a plant, a crystal, a chemical element cannot be an illusory concept for Feser, a concept that only wants to deceive and that pretends to be something real. But then Feser cannot deny or relativize self-movement with the first way to God. In the end, Feser presupposes what he wants to prove, namely the impossibility of a worldly self-movement, a worldly unmoved mover.Is the power of man to move himself real or not real, Mr. Feser? Is the following sentence nonsense? „Life, says Thomas Aquinas in his commentary on Aristotle’s book on life, the De Anima, is essentially that by which anything has power to move itself-—taking ‘movement’ in its wide sense.“ (Herbert McCabe – On Aquinas)

      3. I am not saying that Feser believes in this infinite divisibility of substances.. He would only use it as a possible tool to stop the infinite regress of the essential causal series. Feser’s opponent could, on the one hand, always go on in the causal series by himself, whereby Feser would always nod, i.e. somehow agree, and say “Fine and well” and say that we need a beginning to stop the regress. If, by contrast, the opponent wanted to stop at some point and say that we had now arrived at a point where the division no longer goes on and yet still received mundane first movers, Feser could raise an objection with the divisibility principle: The parts would have parts again and would have to be brought about as a whole in an essential and efficient causal way as well. So it would go on until an immovable transcendent God is extorted. Parts of a whole may indeed stand in an efficient causal relationship with one another, but the whole as something metaphysically preceding always stands above matter and its parts in the hierarchy of significance.

        Here you can find the essay by Scott McDonald: https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/56592/MPAT_1__1159539705_119_155_pdf.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

        Here are excerpts from Blair (George A. Blair – Another Look at St. Thomas) essay:

        „In fact, the First Way cannot deny that there are non-processes that are active, because it argues to one. But in point of fact, both Aristotle and St. Thomas held that there are acts that seem to be processes and
        are not, and yet are not the First Mover. These are transitions of a sort, but not transitions from potency to act. The most common example they give of such a transition is that of not seeing to seeing.St. Thomas, for example, says the following in distinguishing a process like getting hot from this kind of transition:

        And because everything that is in potency, to the extent that it is such, is imperfect, then the former kind of process is the act of something imperfect. But the latter “process” is the act of something perfect: it is the operation of the sense that is already in act, because of its species [Le. because of what determines it to see this and not that] …. This sort of “process” is properly
        called “operation.”! (In De Anima, III, 12, #766.)

        This type of pseudo-process, then, i.s a transition from act to act, and the being does not acquire something that it does not already have. Another example would be actively thinking about some fact that one already knows, but was not thinking of before. One is no greater for thinking about it, because one already knows it. One could say that there is a change in some sense going on here, but it is a peculiar one, one that could be called, in modern terms, a change of phase rather than a change of state. Now such transitions are most obvious in the operations of living things, but are not confined to them.!! Hence, if St. Thomas admits the existence of pseudo-processes even in inanimate nature, he would handle the Newtonian “refutation” simply by saying, “But that is not what I am talking about.”

        But the instability of the “big bang’s” material could have been due to the gravitational collapse of the same material into a single, unstable body. That is, if we assume that the expansion of the universe as we know it will ultimately reach a term where the force of the initial explosion which creates the expansion grows weak enough to be counterbalanced by the gravitational attraction of the galaxies for one another, then the universe will begin to contract, slowly at first, then faster and faster, until finally it will collapse back into the primordial fireball, and we will have another “big bang,” and the whole thing will start all over again. The point here is that this alternate expansion and collapse of the whole universe is another of the pseudo-processes we spoke of earlier,
        which does not imply that energy needs to come from outside the system to explain it. Any cyclic kind of activity, where each cycle exactly repeats the cycle before it, is a kind of equilibrium, as is indicated by the fact that if it is not interfered with from outside (i.e. if no energy is introduced into it), it will go on that way forever. The
        system is simply trading off its own energy internally from one part to another; but the system as a whole does not change its energy-level at all. It is active, in other words, but not really in process.

        And this leads us back to the First Way in the light of St. Thomas’ own philosophy. Since he admits, as was said earlier, that there are transitions that are not processes, then all the First Way really argues to in Thomism is to a living being, which is defined as one which can set up its own process. (Summa Contra Gentiles, IV, c. 20.) Of course, the living being does not “move itself’ (movere se) in the respect in which it is in process, but processes like growth or movement of the limbs are initiated from the soul, or the “first act” within the being, and so have as their cause one of those transitions from act to act.

        It is true that he would hold that not every act of the human mind is a pseudo-process; learning, for instance, is a transition to a condition that did not exist before, and so is from potency to act in a sense that thinking about what one learned is not. But an argument based on this either is the “Frank-is-the-father-ofJohn” argument, for which no “first” is necessary, or is the argument from finiteness of existence, which was not really presented in the Five
        Ways.“

        Richard Swinburne on the First Way (Richard Swinburne – The Existence of God):
        See St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia2.3. Aquinas’s first way is sometimes said to be a version of the cosmological argument, but it does not count as one on my definition of a cosmological argument, since it argues not from the existence of physical objects, but from change in them. It claims in effect that, given that there are physical objects, change in them is so surprising that we need to invoke God as its source. I cannot see that change in them is so surprising that we need to invoke God as its source. Given the existence of physical objects, it seems to me no more surprising that they should change than that they should remain changeless. Aquinas’s supposition to the contrary arises from the Aristotelian physics that is so closely meshed with his philosophy. It is more plausible to suppose that the existence of orderly change is surprising, but the argument from orderly change is Aquinas’s fifth way and is a teleological argument that I shall discuss in the next chapter.

        A critical passage about the second way: (Edward N. Martin – Infinite Causal Regress and the Secunda Via in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas):

        „However, Aquinas offers us the explanation that God is the first transcendent cause, which, given God’s eternality and immutability, is prima facie very hard to accept. To jump from a first immanent cause to a first transcendent cause appears to be one of the most questionable moves in the Thomistic program. If a coherent doctrine of atemporal causality can be identified, the move between first transcendent and immanent causes would be justified.“

        Kenny on the fifth way (Kenny, Anthony. Five Ways):

        „Elsewhere, Aquinas says things which bring the Fifth Way nearer to the traditional argument from design. He produces more familiar examples of teleology in nature, many of them borrowed from Aristotle. The leaves in plants are arranged to protect the fruit; the foot is made by nature apt for walking; front teeth are good for biting, back teeth are good for chewing (ScG III, 3; In Physics II, 12 252). As examples of instinctive activities of brutes, he mentions the swallow’s building of its nest and the spider’s weaving of its web (In Physics II, 13 259).

        This is clear in the first argument from the determinacy of natural effects. The hot does not cool, Aquinas says, and the cold does not heat, but particular powers have particular effects. In so far as it is true at all, it seems to be a logical truth that only what is wet wets; a linguistic philosopher might say that it was a grammatical remark drawing attention to the connection between the adjective and the verb. So it seems that we will not need God to account for this wondrous adaptation of agents to their operations. However, it is not difficult to replace Aquinas’ remark with a less vacuous example. Water, when cooled, turns into ice and not into, say, coal. But what has this to do with goals? Explain, if you like, the freezing of water by saying that water has a natural tendency to freeze; but why say that water is aiming at anything in freezing? Aquinas’ argument suggests that what is being aimed at is the freezing itself; but this amounts to saying that water freezes because it freezes.

        Each of Aquinas’ arguments, then, breaks down in its attempt to prove that every agent acts for the sake of an end; and without this a priori principle one may well be sceptical whether natural, non-living agents act for ends. However, the more modest statement of the Fifth Way, that some things which lack consciousness act for the sake of an end, seems acceptable as a premise if supported by the other examples drawn from the behaviour of living organisms. The interesting philosophical question is whether the teleological explanation of animal behaviour is irreducible to any non-teleological explanation.

        On the other hand, if the argument from design ever had any value, it has not been substantially affected by the scientific investigation of living organisms from Descartes through Darwin to the present day. If Descartes is correct in regarding the activities of animals as mechanistically explicable, then a system may operate teleologically while being mechanistic in structure. If Darwin is correct in ascribing the origin of species to natural selection, then the production of a teleological structure may be due in the first instance to factors which are purely mechanistic.

        On the other hand, if even regular adaptive behaviour calls for intelligence, Aquinas has given us no reason why we should not call the swallows and the spiders intelligent themselves, rather than looking for an intelligence to direct them from outside the universe.

        Indeed it seems much easier to conceive of an intelligence incarnate in the body that exhibits the purposive behaviour than it is to conceive of a discarnate controlling intelligence. For in the case of the human beings and higher animals to whom we attribute degrees of intelligence, the adaptation of means to ends which is to be explained is, mediately or immediately, brought about by manipulation by the organisms in question. There are some who believe in psychokinesis, stretching the concept of intelligence in such a way that a human will is supposed to control events in the world without any intervention of the human body. There are serious difficulties in extending the concept in this way, and in particular it is not easy to interpret what is said of the act of the will which is supposed to cause the change in the world. But at least the experimental subjects can be given and take in orders such as ‘will the six to turn up’, and this gives a connection, however tenuous, between whatever takes place in their minds and the normal exercise of the will in voluntary bodily activity. Moreover, the field in which the effects of this quasi-volition are alleged to occur, is limited by the terms of particular experiments: the fall of a particular set of dice, the turning up of cards from a given pack. The concept of intelligence has to be extended very much further if we are to speak of an intelligence whose normal mode of operation is not bodily at all, and whose field of operation is the whole of heaven and earth.“

        Schopenhauer on the teleological proof( Schopenhauer, Arthur. ON THE WILL IN NATURE):
        The manifest adaptation of each animal for its mode of life and outward means of subsistence, even down to the smallest detail, together with the exceeding perfection of its organisation, form abundant material for teleological contemplation, which has always been a favourite occupation of the human mind, and which, extended even to inanimate Nature, has become the argument of the Physico-theological Proof. The universal fitness for their ends, the obviously intentional design in all the parts of the organism of the lower animals without exception, proclaim too distinctly for it ever to have been seriously questioned, that here no forces of Nature acting by chance and without plan have been at work, but a will. Now, that a will should act otherwise than under the guidance of knowledge was inconceivable, according to empirical science and views. For, up to my time, as has been shown in the last chapter, will and intellect had been regarded as absolutely inseparable nay, the will was looked upon as a mere operation of the intellect, that presumptive basis of all that is spiritual. Accordingly wherever the will acted, knowledge must have been its guide; consequently it must have been its guide here also. But the mediation of knowledge, which, as such, is exclusively directed towards the outside, brings with it, that a will acting by means of it, can only act outwardly, that is, only from one being upon another. Therefore the will, of which unmistakable traces had been found, was not sought for where these were discovered, but was removed to the outside, and the animal became the product of a will foreign to it, guided by knowledge, which must have been very clear knowledge indeed, nay, the deeply excogitated conception of a purpose; and this purpose must have preceded the animal’s existence, and, together with the will, whose product the animal is, have lain outside that animal. According to this, the animal would have existed in representation before existing in reality. This is the basis of the train of thought on which the Physico-theological Proof is founded. But this proof is no mere scholastic sophism, like the Ontological Proof: nor does it contain an untiring natural opponent within itself, like the Cosmological Proof, in that very same law of causality to which it owes its existence. On the contrary, it is, in reality, for the educated, what the Keraunological Proof is for the vulgar, and its plausibility is so great, so potent, that the most eminent and at the same time least prejudiced minds have been deeply entangled in it. Voltaire, for instance, who, after all sorts of other doubts, always comes back to it, sees no possibility of getting over it and even places its evidence almost on a level with that of a mathematical demonstration. Even Priestley too declares it to be irrefutable. Hume’s reflection and acumen alone stood the test, even in this case; in his “Dialogues on Natural Religion”, which are so well worth reading, this true precursor of Kant calls attention to the fact (in Part 7, inter alia), that there is no resemblance at all between the works of Nature and those of an Art which proceeds according to a design. Now it is precisely where he cuts asunder the nervus probandi of this extremely insidious proof, as well as that of the two others — in his Critique of Judgement and in his Critique of Pure Reason — that Kant’s merit shines most brilliantly. A very brief summary of this Kantian refutation of the Physico-theological Proof may be found in my chief work. Kant has earned for himself great merit by it; for nothing stands so much in the way of a correct insight into Nature and into the essence of things as this view, by which they are looked upon as having been made according to a preconceived plan. Therefore, if a Duke of Bridgewater offers a prize of high value for the confirmation and perpetuation of such fundamental errors, let it be our task, following in the footsteps of Hume and Kant, to work undauntedly at their destruction, without any other reward than truth. Truth deserves respect: not what is opposed to it. Nevertheless here, as elsewhere, Kant has confined himself to negation; but a negation only takes full effect when it has been completed by a correct affirmation, this alone giving entire satisfaction and in itself dislodging and superseding error, according to the words of Spinoza: Sicut lux se ipsa et tenebras manifestat, sic veritas norma sui et falsi est. First of all therefore we say: the world is not made with the help of knowledge, consequently also not from the outside, but from the inside; and next we endeavour to point out the punctum saliens of the world-egg. The physico-theological thought, that Nature must have been regulated and fashioned by an intellect, however well it may suit the untutored mind, is nevertheless fundamentally wrong. For the intellect is only known to us in animal nature, consequently as an absolutely secondary and subordinate principle in the world, a product of the latest origin; it can never therefore have been the condition of the existence of that world. Nor can a mundus intelligibilis precede a mundus sensibilis; since it receives its material from the latter alone. It is not an intellect which has brought forth Nature; it is, on the contrary, Nature which has brought forth the intellect. Now the will on the contrary being that which fills every thing and manifests itself immediately in each — thus showing each thing to be its phenomenon — appears everywhere as that which is primary. It is just for this reason, that the explanation of all teleological facts is to be found in the will of the being itself in which they are observed. Besides, the Physico-theological Proof may be simply invalidated by the empirical observation, that works produced by animal instinct, such as the spider’s web, the bee’s honeycomb and its cells, the white ant’s constructions, etc., are throughout constituted as if they were the result of an intentional conception, of a wide-reaching providence and of rational deliberation; whereas they are evidently the work of a blind impulse, i.e. of a will not guided by knowledge. From this it follows, that the conclusion from such and such a nature to such and such a mode of coming into being, has not the same certainty as the conclusion from a consequent to its reason, which is in all cases a sure one.

  1. source reference:

    about the scape ground squirrels

    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2010/09/28/squirrels-masturbate-to-avoid-sexually-transmitted-infections/

    Aristotle on abortion and health as a reason for sex
    (Aristotle Politics Book Seven Part XVI)
    As to the exposure and rearing of children, let there be a law that no deformed child shall live, but that on the ground of an excess in the number of children, if the established customs of the state forbid this (for in our state population has a limit), no child is to be exposed, but when couples have children in excess, let abortion be procured before sense and life have begun; what may or may not be lawfully done in these cases depends on the question of life and sensation. 

    And now, having determined at what ages men and women are to begin their union, let us also determine how long they shall continue to beget and bear offspring for the state; men who are too old, like men who are too young, produce children who are defective in body and mind; the children of very old men are weakly. The limit then, should be the age which is the prime of their intelligence, and this in most persons, according to the notion of some poets who measure life by periods of seven years, is about fifty; at four or five years or later, they should cease from having families; and from that time forward only cohabit with one another for the sake of health; or for some similar reason.

    1. “only cohabit with one another for the sake of health”
      The word cohabit seems to be a rarely used word in English. The German academic translation of this passage clearly refers to sexual intercourse.

  2. A friend of mine drew my attention to some inaccuracies in my wording that would prevent Thomists from taking me seriously. I have therefore updated my theses and expressed myself more precisely. I do not want to withhold this from anyone. So here’s the improvement of my theses on Edward Feser’s moral philosophy:
    I. My biggest problems with the classical Thomistic theory of natural law are the following: In my opinion, natural law cannot be reconciled with some basic Christian ideas or with important findings of modern science. Representatives of contemporary theories of action and many philosophers of the mind would also have their great problems with natural law. What about the compatibility of natural law with the Christian doctrine of original sin? If the whole of nature is sinful, i.e. morally reprehensible in itself, how can it at all be a yardstick for truly moral action? In this regard, a voice of a biblical Christian can be quoted that could be representative of many Christians: „For the Christian, however, nature is not the standard, because the world of nature is a fallen world, a world in rebellion against God and infected by sin and death. For a standard, we must look beyond nature to God.” (Rousas John Rushdoony) (for more infos on this topic look for WILLIAM O. EINWECHTER – NATURAL LAW: A SUMMARY AND CRITIQUE on google) Edward Feser does not go into this problem at all in his “last superstition”. How far does sin extend to him? The whole of nature or just certain parts of it or everything in the world except the spirit? Secretly, Feser seems, as I suspect, to advocate a Pelagianism that completely denies an inherited original sin, the Augustinian one. In any case, for me one thing is certain: an ethic of natural law is only compatible with heretical Pelagianism.
    The next great difficulty in natural law is the well-known is–ought problem. How is it possible to derive a moral ought from the mere fact that almost all human organs and abilities are teleologically structured (one could also say functional)? Without the additional presence of a “rational being facing me”, there simply is no “ought” possible, let alone a moral one. A deliberate demand of another person is in fact the essential condition for the realization of an “ought” within me. It does not matter whether this person is an angel, a demon, spirit, the higher self or simply another human being (God might come into question if he is understood as a person). How does this logic of action and speech look more precise? The first step would be something like this: A person, for example, demands help from me by turning to me and saying, “Help me, please” which means “I want you to help me”. Of course, I immediately understand that I should help her. So we have gone from a will/demand of another person to a should or ought which is inside of me. We do indeed need God as a morality demanding being in natural law. Therefore, in order to function at all, a very sophisticated divinecommand theory would have to be incorporated into it so that God can guide us to good action. Under the metaphysical conditions of Thomism, however, I see no possibility for this. God would somehow have to communicate to us through the purposefulness of our physical and mental nature. This indirect “communication” fails, however, because Hume’s is-ought guillotine immediately takes effect. It would anyway have been a bad communication from the beginning, which is also not worthy of God. There should therefore be a direct revelation that tells us briefly to obey natural law without further discussion. Since this would no longer do justice to a philosophical claim, it would also be out of question. If we push aside the is–ought problem and accept our nature as a moral compass, we would be dependent on the complete arbitrariness of God with regard to this compass anyway. For he could have created another nature at will, thus another morality, and could still do so by miracles. If God orders nature teleologically, it remains unclear whether this order corresponds at all to his will how we should behave. His teleological order of the world perhaps only enables us the stage on which we should then act according to a completely different, perhaps Kantian, ethic. But even if it would correspond to his will in that sense, it remains questionable whether his demands as a non-participant in everyday affairs in the world are really morally binding on us, questionable whether they, as impious as it may sound, are at all morally good. Grisez, an arch-conservative in moral matters, also sees problems: „One way to explain the major of the perverted-faculty argument is to say that the integrity of the natural design of human functions always must be respected because it was instituted by God. Yet, it is not evident that God requires that this design always be respected. If the assumption is true, however, it seems to have great force only in the sphere of sex, since other functions are interfered with in many ways without arousing moral condemnation so long as the faculty itself is not permanently damaged.“ (Germain Grisez – INADEQUATE ARGUMENTS in Contraception and the Natural Law 1964, you can find it in the internet)
    Another problem of natural law is the following: When the body and the mind constitute together a genuine Hylomorphic unity, so that in the end physical processes have influence on the mind, and vice versa, the question arises as to how one can be sure of the correct insight into natural law. If someone is suffering severely from a mental or physical illness and thinks he knows exactly what natural law is supposed to look like, how much faith can one give that person? Diseases can affect both judgment and cognition. A person who is completely blind from birth on, for example, has her very own access to things and their qualities. A heavily manic-depressive person should not be too sure about ethics, especially natural law ethics. Serious epistemological difficulties of naïve Realism, which Aristotle represents, will not be discussed here at all. Cultural influences, deeply rooted customs and traditions could also be further obstacles to grasping the true teleology of man in a clear and unbiased way. One example would be circumcision. Certain religions fully endorse this practice, although it is strictly speaking a mutilation of the genitals, contrary to their teleology. That circumcision is an ethical offence would never be understood by these religions. A tradition thousands of years old has, so to speak, blinded them in this respect. Perhaps the Western world is also partially blinded by cultural Patriarchy? Or later by Postmodernism? Perhaps all people are simply groping in the dark, including the extremely moral Kantians who have no access to Thomistic natural law (or the natural lawyers darken the true morality)? Who (really) knows? Perhaps our reproductive organs are nothing more than a means of proving oneself morally by resisting devilish sexual seduction in an inner struggle. Maybe our Western culture has only obscured this goal? Who can tell? Does my inability to recognize the divine order of nature then relieve me of all moral responsibility? If I “in false knowledge” violate the supposed natural law, am I then accountable? These questions are not irrelevant, since natural law is based on very specific insights. Be that as it may, recognizing a real purpose, even from a physically and mentally healthy state, was not a completely simple task even for Aristotle: for “the more matter is involved in the formation of an object, the more unclear the purpose can be for the scientist.” (Robert Spaemann) Then, though, the following question arises: Do acting persons first have to ask zoological experts in order to find out what human nature contains? In fact, the Church has often had to be instructed by experts in human anatomy. The position during sex, for example, in which the woman is at the top, was condemned by the church for a long time because it allegedly hindered the goal of reproduction. According to Church doctrine, the semen would have come out of the woman’s body again. But newer physiological and anatomical findings did not confirm this, and the frowned upon sex position then had to be permitted by the Church meekly. This is a prime example of a great weakness that lies in the ethics of natural law, namely that it depends on scientific knowledge, with the consequence that its teachings can always be falsified. Grisez describes another example of a discrepancy between a premature acceptance of the church and the later correction of scientists:„The older scholastics who thought that feminine “semination” is analogous to male ejaculation were mistaken in their physiological facts. If they had not made a mistake on this point, many of them would have been unable to show the immorality of female masturbation because it has no objective significance for the reproductive function.“ And the subordination of women “to men was long regarded as an indisputable moral [because indeed biological] certainty – and of course as an immutable part of natural law. Saint Thomas, for example, was very, very sure about this.” (Andreas Edmüller) Nevertheless, scientific research cannot ignore an encounter with philosophical epistemology. And so, in order to theoretically avoid all possible epistemological problems, Aristotle still had to adopt a strict and speculative body-mind dualism (a ghost in a “living” organism instead of in a Cartesian machine), i.e. he had to go beyond his self-developed Hylemorphism, so that a reliable perceptibility of the essence of things is, in principle, guaranteed, which reassured all dry, epistemological loving spirits. But this has brought a great darkness into his soul theory.
    Is natural law compatible with biological evolution? This is the most important question in times of prevailing secularism and evolutionary humanism. But first a brief overview shall be given of what evolutionary theory means for man in general: the structure of human nature is just as it is because certain morally neutral adaptations of certain “selfish” genes in the distant past were simply more successful than others. In addition, evolution is not simply a thing of the past, but continues to progress untiringly through sexual selection, which also takes place beyond good and evil. Then one has to ask oneself: How can nature in its organic make-up provide an absolutely firm and credible yardstick for moral action if it is proven to be subject to a constant evolutionary process that is mercilessly brutal. For some, nature is even subject to successive change in almost all its facets. But you don’t need to go that far to question natural law. The survival and reproductive ability of an organism alone and the specific characteristics that go hand in hand with this ability and have developed in the course of natural selection and can still change from generation to generation (already existing organs could either get additional functions in the course of evolution or they could simply atrophy to complete inactivity) are unlikely to be helpful in making moral decisions. Unless you are a follower of social Darwinism. Apart from that, if evolution is to be seen as a guide to “finding out how people should behave, we must first ask to what end evolution is heading.” (Robert Wright) But any goal would be based on pure speculation; and it looks more likely that there is no goal. In addition, natural law ethics would have to follow the course of human evolution (which may be as slow as it is, but in theory it doesn’t change anything), i.e. in principle it would have to adapt gradually to this course in order to remain up to date with the latest ethical standards (it remains an open question of whether it should stick to the average person or to exceptional people). However, this is not compatible with the idea of a uniquely true, eternal, objective morality. The Book of Nature is not “written down” once and for all, it rewrites itself here and there. After all, man has evolved evolutionarily (and this development has certainly not covered itself morally with glory), so that even before a Hylomorphic way of thinking, it is no longer possible to speak of a metaphysical human species, but only of a biological one in a very loose sense. In the world of evolution each organism exists by itself alone as an individual and to other organisms there are only degrees of kinship, whereby we simply, there is no way around it, lose the uniform Aristotelian form of man as a supertemporal ethical model and swap a Thomistic value scale for an evolutionary one. Under the assumption of the theory of evolution, some things that would otherwise be immoral in traditionally bound societies could now be ethically legitimized, for example the use of contraceptives by women and finally by men. Because a precursor of sexual contraception can in principle already be found in the animal world among sperm-selecting females (the morning-after contraception pill also has parallels in animals, namely in females who eat poisonous plants after mating to kill the inseminated ovum). All this can be found under the keyword: cryptic female choice. And there are already indications in ancient Egypt that contraceptives were used by women in the form of sponges soaked in germ-killing substances and introduced into the vagina before sexual intercourse. But for reasons of equality, men should not be disadvantaged in this respect. Another example: Originally men used their erect penis during sexual intercourse, also to scoop foreign ejaculate out of the vagina, i.e. to be able to position their semen better in comparison to other semen in the woman’s body. From an evolutionary-biological point of view, this would allow the woman to behave very promiscuously. And again out of fairness one should not deprive men of such possible behaviour. So the assumption of evolution, whether it only takes place according to Darwinian or Lamark principles or both (culture could also be transferred into our nature), makes a connection with a very specific conservative natural law ethics, to put it mildly, almost impossible.
    Even if all problems of the four mentioned points were solved, one would need on the one hand a convincing proof of God. On the other hand, the freedom of will should not only be proven, but also made comprehensible conceptually. Otherwise one would only have to postulate both, God and the freedom of will, and blindly rely on their existence. Since the concept of freedom of will is extremely problematic and no proof of God is ultimately convincing from a religiously neutral perspective (God defined as that which is in every respect absolute, as that which in the absolute sense can no longer be derived from anything, can logically no longer be completely derived in a course of demonstration on a sheet of paper either), every moral theory is, for better or for worse, in a state of suspense. Otto Weininger also argues similarly, but he then takes an existential fideistic step that I would not take myself: “The desire to demonstrate the idea of the good-and-the-true, the existence of a supremely essential value and a supremely perfect being, the existence of God, is practically a contradictio in adjecto. It lies in the very concept of God that it cannot be proven, but only believed. Thus there is no higher tribunal before which logic and ethics have to stand and defend themselves; I can give no further foundation for these two laws.” (OTTO WEININGER – ON LAST THINGS)

    1. small corrections:
      Instead of “It would anyway have been a bad communication from the beginning” ist should hav been: “So it would have been a bad communication from the beginning, which is also not worthy of God.”

      Instead of: “he had to go beyond his self-developed Hylemorphism, so that a reliable perceptibility of the essence of things is, in principle, guaranteed, which reassured all dry, epistemological loving spirits.” ist should have been: “he had to go beyond his self-developed hylemorphism, so that a reliable perceptibility of the essence of things is guaranteed in principle, which calmed all dull people who love epistemology.”

      1. Thanks for the update!

    2. Addition to the evolution aspect:
      If one persistently wants to hold on to a supertemporal and fixed form of a living being, one must admit that the chain of evolutionary changes (from bacteria to man) is a chain of deformations and deviations (which are to be understood as bad) from the “very first” (originally good) life form (which is the first link in the chain). The idea of evolutionary adaptation to external circumstances is completely absent in Aristotelian thought.

      It is also important to bear in mind that evolution does not only affect the physical appearance of a living being, but also its behaviour and internal dispositions.

      1. Most of the evolutionary chains have stopped prematurely, and only the one that reached man was successful by chance. Just because an organism has been successful in evolutionary respects does not make it a supertemporal and fixed form of life. And that which quickly perishes in the world of life cannot simply be described as a pathological deviation from an original form of life. Random circumstances and adaptability play a crucial role here. Aristotelian terms simply don’t work here. Thomists who consider evolution to be real have to understand that.

      2. Very good points.

    3. The is/ought debate is a sham debate on the part of the Thomists. They are not really interested in this problem. Because in their world I can move away from God or move towards Him. God does not force me to do anything, nor does he demand anything. But then I have to take the consequences: Heaven or hell. So we are dealing solely with a metaphysical consequentialism. But this is all a matter of faith. One could still say that God is interested in the highest number of souls in heaven and thus in the lowest number in hell. So the greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible number. This is metaphysical theological utilitarianism without comparison.

      1. Haha, I was just doing a video on a related topic recently! Check out my latest post, I think you may enjoy the critique of Aristotle I made 😀

      2. Ah, thanks for mentioning.

    4. “God would somehow have to communicate to us through the purposefulness of our physical and mental nature. This indirect “communication” fails, however, because Hume’s is-ought guillotine immediately takes effect.”

      I have something to add here. Hume’s guillotine at least works immediately if I don’t believe in a god. However, if I accept a God, then on the part of God many important explanations and additional information are missing, like what exactly should I pay attention to, what could the disregard for consequences have for me, what is particularly important and what not and so on and so forth. So a huge manual (first step, how to use this and that etc.) would have to be given, which is not the case.

      If God’s will is expressed in my biological and intellectual faculties, the question naturally arises in view of his omnipotence how his will can fail at all. Perhaps it is more a matter of God’s wishes, but they can hardly generate morality. But put that aside.

      There is the possibility of deriving a ought from the will of another person. And I think it’s the only possibility to get a ought. Feser would have to go along with this train of thought in order to still be credible for me. In addition, God would have to be understood as a real person in a non-analogous sense, albeit as a supernatural higher super-person. You can’t get past it: No person, no will, no ought.

      Three translated quotations shall illustrate my point:

      “A good rule of thumb for understanding the practical “ought” (in German Sollen) is: Where a ought is, there is the will (Wollen) of someone else.” (Peter Stemmer – Normativität)

      „ought expresses a necessity, which however is not given by objective (or as such seen) conditions, but always includes the will of a foreign entity (instance) (therefore: demand). The entity (instance) is usually a person who does not have to be named in the sentence, but as such is always clear (in the above examples: physician, author, legislator).“ (From a German grammar book. But I don’t know if you can transfer German grammar so easily to English here. )

      „And it is obvious that such a “ought” is therefore nothing but the synthetic result of the encounter of subjects, each of whom, as a conscious end in itself, is a conscious willing in relation to the other, and thus also a conscious demanding.“ (Gerold Prauss)

      If I, as an absolute stranger to the world, see a traffic light system, I can only assume a “ought” behind it when there are people who indirectly demand something with it, namely compliance with traffic law. If these people do not exist and have never existed, then one only has to deal with an as-is state, from which nothing ought worthy can result.
      And besides, I cannot deduce the pure road traffic regulations from mere empirical observations. There must be someone who explains them to me completely from the outset. In natural law this someone is missing. Not only that: Because of the alleged original sin, it is even more difficult to gain an overview.

      When I see a beetle or a turtle lying on its back and it cannot stand up by itself any more, the effort by it to turn around expresses a goal orientation which I can only interpret as God’s demand. Would there then be a moral demand for me to intervene if I were present, especially if someone else (or even I myself) did this on purpose? Neither can my sex organ pursue its goal on its own in a certain situation, so I have to help it out. The comparison between the beetle and the sex organ may not work because the latter is only part of a whole, whereas the beetle itself is a whole. The beetle should rather have rights than my sexual organ, which I cannot look at exclusively.
      When a fly annoys me, it only pursues its teleological nature, which must also be an expression of the divine will. If I kill the fly, as one of the gigantically many expressed wills of God, no one cares about it.

      Why should God communicate with me through my individual parts and not through my preceding whole being? So through my conscience, as it has always been understood in Christian traditions? Parts whatsoever, my conscience gives me real clues or my true peace of heart gives me them.

      Feser says the whole universe also has a cause. If you don’t problematize that thought, one could argue about whether the cause is an accidental or an essential one or both. You can go further, you even have to go logically further. If the universe has an efficient cause, then it must also have a final cause, a formal cause, and a material cause. But the parts of a whole have no absolute independence (free will), because they are parts that are subordinate to the metaphysically preceding whole. A whole cannot reach its telos only if it is prevented from doing so by another wholeness which could only be God. That should be ruled out, so that we come to the conclusion that everything in the world runs exactly as it should.

      Let’s go to evolution. If we accept it, then we can at least no longer assume a sharply defined supertemporal living being. We can no longer say exactly where the contours of that living being begin and where they exactly end. The exact scope of the concept of that living being remains forever inaccessible and inadequate to us. Which characteristics belong to that living being and which do not can no longer be answered for sure if one takes a close look at its evolutionary history. This living being as a substantial form hasn’t just popped up as such out of nothing. It has only found its place in the phylogenetic tree of life, but only in a gradual (blood-)relation to its predecessors. As Dawkins once said, there is no first Adam and therefore no last one. It is no longer possible to point the finger at the place where man supposedly became man. Neither Aristotle nor Aquinas assumes the reality of the evolution of species. But Darwin had initiated the end of the metaphysical species. The only conceivable fixed form would be life as such, unspecifically and considered in and of itself. Since evolution is progressive, so should morality. It would therefore be best to integrate future developments already into one’s present actions.

      „Nothing outrages our moral feeling in its deepest ground so much as cruelty. We can forgive every other crime, but cruelty alone we cannot. The ground for this is that cruelty is the direct opposite of compassion. If we are informed of a very cruel deed, as is, e.g., the one that the newspapers are reporting just now about a mother who murdered her five-year-old boy by pouring boiling oil down his throat and her younger child by burying it alive; or the one that is just reported from Algiers, that after a chance dispute and fight between a Spaniard and an Algerian, the latter, being the stronger, tore the other man’s whole lower jaw bone clean off and carried it away as a trophy, abandoning him still alive – then we are seized with horror and cry out: ‘How is it possible to do such a thing?’ – What is the sense of this question? Is it perhaps: How is it possible to fear so little the punishments of the future life? – Hardly. – Or: How is it possible to act on a maxim that is so highly unsuited to becoming a universal law for all rational beings? – Certainly not. – Or: How is it possible to be so negligent of one’s own perfection and that of others? – Equally not. – The sense
      of that question is quite certainly simply this: How is it possible to be so much without compassion? – Thus it is the greatest lack of compassion that impresses upon a deed the most profound moral reprehensibility and hatefulness. Consequently compassion is the real moral incentive.“ (Arthur Schopenhauer – The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics)
      One might as well add the natural law principle to Schopenhauer’s list of implausible moral principles.

      „Duties to ourselves must, as all duties, be either duties of right or duties of love. Duties of right a towards ourselves are impossible, because of the self-evident fundamental principle ‘No injury is done to someone who wills it’: for since what I do is at all times what I will, what happens to me from myself too is always only what I will, and consequently never a wrong. But as regards duties of loved towards ourselves, morals finds its work here already done and arrives too late. The impossibility of violating the duty of self-love is already presupposed by the highest commandment of Christian morals: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself ’, in which the love that everyone harbours for himself is assumed in advance as the maximum and the condition of every other love. But ‘Love yourself as your neighbour’ is by no means added, in which case everyone would feel that too little was demanded – this would also be the sole duty according to which a work of supererogatione would be on the daily schedule.“ (Arthur Schopenhauer – The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics)

      Some bizarre remarks by Schopenhauer about the beard and other body hairs:

      „The final cause of the pubes in both sexes, and of the mons Veneris in the female, is that, even in the case of very slender subjects, the ossa pubis shall not be felt during copulation, for it might excite aversion. The efficient cause, on the other hand, is to be sought in the fact that, wherever the mucous membrane passes over to the outer skin, hair grows in the vicinity; also in the fact that head and genitals are, to a certain extent, opposite poles of each other. They therefore have many different relations and analogies to each other, one of which is that of being covered with hair. The same efficient cause also holds good of men’s beards; I imagine that the final cause of the beard is the fact that what is pathognomonic, and thus the rapid change in the features of the face which betrays every hidden movement of the mind, becomes visible mainly in the mouth and its vicinity. Therefore, to conceal this from the prying glance of an adversary as something that is often dangerous in negotiations or in sudden emergencies, nature (knowing that homo homini lupus) gave man the beard. Woman, on the other hand, could dispense with it, for with her dissimulation and self-control (contenance) are inborn.“ (The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1)

      „Even as an external symptom of the coarseness that is becoming rampant you see its constant companion – the long beard, this mark of sex in the middle of the face, saying that one prefers masculinity, which one shares with the animals, over humanity, by first being a male, mas, and only afterwards a human being. The shaving of beards in all highly educated ages and countries arose from the correct feeling of the opposite, by virtue of which one wants to be first of all a human being, in a sense a human being in the abstract, disregarding the animal sex difference.“ (Arthur Schopenhauer – Parerga and Paralipomena Short Philosophical Essays)

      Here again the official translation of a Schopenhauer Passage, in which he quotes Kant. I translated this passage myself in my essay. This passage also shows why the Kantians cannot become natural lawyers. :
      „That moral law, then, that was assumed to exist in advance without justification and without derivation or proof, is in addition supposed to be a law cognizable a priori, independent of all inner and outer experience, ‘resting solely on concepts of pure reason, it is supposed to be a synthetic principle a priori’: directly connected with this is that it must be merely formal, like everything that is cognized a priori, and so must relate merely to the form, not the content, of actions. Just think what that means! He expressly adds that it ‘must not be sought in the nature of the human being (the subjective) or in the circumstances of the world (the objective)’ and, that ‘it must not borrow the least thing from acquaintance with the human being, i.e. from anthropology’. Again he repeats ‘that one should not let oneself think of deriving one’s moral principle from the special constitution of human nature’; similarly: that ‘Everything that is derived from a special natural constitution of humanity, from certain feelings and propensities, and even, if possible, from a special tendency that would be peculiar to human nature and would not necessarily have to hold for the will of every rational being’ could yield no basis for the moral law.“ (Arthur Schopenhauer – The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics)

      In my essay I should have said more about original sin in connection with natural law, but the concept of original sin is such a vague, strange concept that theologians always produce it when they get into philosophical embarrassment.

  3. II.1 The essence of man can also be interpreted differently, perhaps even better and more convincingly, because deeper and more comprehensive than Aristotle did:
    1. as a blind will to live as with Schopenhauer. The main purpose here would be the maintenance of life, including reproduction. Christopher Janaway sums it up: “The will has no overall purpose, aims at no highest good. Although it is our essence, it strikes us as an alien agency within, striving for life and procreation blindly, mediated only secondarily by consciousness. Instinctive sexuality is at our core, interfering constantly with the life of the intellect.” And more from Janaway: “Whenever we undergo feelings of fear or desire, attraction or repulsion, whenever the body itself behaves according to the various unconscious functions of nourishment, reproduction, or survival, Schopenhauer discerns will manifesting itself – but in a new and extended sense. What he wants to show is that ordinary conscious willing is no different in its basic nature from the many other processes which set the body, or parts of it, in motion. Admittedly, willing to act involves conscious thinking – it involves the body’s being caused to move by motives in the intellect – but it is, for Schopenhauer, not different in principle from the beating of the heart, the activation of the saliva glands, or the arousal of the sexual organs. All can be seen as an individual organism manifesting will, in Schopenhauer’s sense. The body itself is will; more specifically, it is a manifestation of will to life (Wille zum Leben), a kind of blind striving, at a level beneath that of conscious thought and action, which is directed towards the preservation of life, and towards engendering life anew. This interesting idea is wrapped up in the much wider claim that the whole world in itself is will. Just as my body’s movements have an inner aspect not revealed in objective experience, so does the rest of the world. Schopenhauer seeks an account which makes all fundamental forces in nature homogeneous, and thinks that science is inherently unsatisfying because it always tails off without explaining the essence or hidden inner character of the phenomena whose behaviour it accounts for. His unifying account of nature is that all natural processes are a manifestation of will.” (Christopher Janaway – SCHOPENHAUER)
    2. as a blind will to power as with Nietzsche. Cause of purpose would be alone an expansion and increase of one’s own sphere of power by subjugating other forces. What is good for Nietzsche? His answer: “Everything that enhances people´s feeling of power, will to power, power itself.” (Nietzsche – The Anti-Christ) Here are some passages from Nietzsche to better understand his philosophy of nature: “Wherever I found a living thing, there found I Will to Power; and even in the will of the servant found I the will to be master. He certainly did not hit the truth who shot at it the formula: ‘Will to existence’: that will—doth not exist! For what is not, cannot will; that, however, which is in existence—how could it still strive for existence! Only where there is life, is there also will: not, however, Will to Life, but—so teach I thee—Will to Power! Much is reckoned higher than life itself by the living one; but out of the very reckoning speaketh—the Will to Power!”—” (Friedrich Nietzsche – Thus Spake Zarathustra) And: “Assuming, finally, that we succeeded in explaining our entire life of drives as the organization and outgrowth of one basic form of will (namely, of the will to power, which is my claim); assuming we could trace all organic functions back to this will to power and find that it even solved the problem of procreation and nutrition (which is a single problem); then we will have earned the right to clearly designate all efficacious force as: will to power. The world seen from inside, the world determined and described with respect to its “intelligible character” – would be just this “will to power” and nothing else. –” (FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE – Beyond Good and Evil) Then: “Mutually refraining from injury, violence, and exploitation, placing your will on par with the other’s: in a certain, crude sense, these practices can become good manners between individuals when the right conditions are present (namely, that the individuals have genuinely similar quantities of force and measures of value, and belong together within a single body). But as soon as this principle is taken any further, and maybe even held to be the fundamental principle of society, it immediately shows itself for what it is: the will to negate life, the principle of disintegration and decay. Here we must think things through thoroughly, and ward off any sentimental weakness: life itself is essentially a process of appropriating, injuring, overpowering the alien and the weaker, oppressing, being harsh, imposing your own form, incorporating, and at least, the very least, exploiting, – but what is the point of always using words that have been stamped with slanderous intentions from time immemorial? Even a body within which (as we presupposed earlier) particular individuals treat each other as equal (which happens in every healthy aristocracy): if this body is living and not dying, it will have to treat other bodies in just those ways that the individuals it contains refrain from treating each other. It will have to be the embodiment of will to power, it will want to grow, spread, grab, win dominance, – not out of any morality or immorality, but because it is alive, and because life is precisely will to power. But there is no issue on which the base European consciousness is less willing to be instructed than this; these days, people everywhere are lost in rapturous enthusiasms, even in scientific disguise, about a future state of society where “the exploitative character” will fall away: – tomy ears, that sounds as if someone is promising to invent a life that dispenses with all organic functions. “Exploitation” does not belong to a corrupted or imperfect, primitive society: it belongs to the essence of being alive as a fundamental organic function; it is a result of genuine will to power, which is just the will of life. – Although this is an innovation at the level of theory, – at the level of reality, it is the primal fact of all history. Let us be honest with ourselves to this extent at least! –” (FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE – Beyond Good and Evil) Finally: “And do you know what “the world” is to me? Shall I show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without increase or income; enclosed by “nothingness” as by a boundary; not something blurry or wasted, not something endlessly extended, but set in a definite space as a definite force, and not a space that might be “empty” here or there, but rather as force throughout, as a play of forces and waves of forces, at the same time one and many, increasing here and at the same time decreasing there; a sea of forces flowing and rushing together, eternally changing, eternally flooding back, with tremendous years of recurrence, with an ebb and a flood of its forms; out of the simplest forms striving toward the most complex, out of the stillest, most rigid, coldest forms toward the hottest, most turbulent, most self-contradictory, and then again returning home to the simple out of this abundance, out of the play of contradictions back to the joy of concord, still affirming itself in this uniformity of its courses and its years, blessing itself as that which must return eternally, as a becoming that knows no satiety, no disgust, no weariness: this, my Dionysian world of the eternally self-creating, the eternally self-destroying, this mystery world of the twofold voluptuous delight, my “beyond good and evil,” without goal, unless the joy of the circle is itself a goal; without will, unless a ring feels good will toward itself-do you want a name for this world? A solution for all its riddles? A light for you, too, you best-concealed, strongest, most intrepid, most midnightly men?- This world is the will to power-and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power-and nothing besides!” (FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE – The Will to Power)
    3. as a blind will to die and perish as with Philipp Mainländer. The goal of life would be the weakening of all forces, and ultimately the death of both the entire organic and inorganic world. Mainländer sums up his own philosophy in this way: “1) God wanted non-existence; 2) His being was the obstacle to the immediate entry into non-existence; 3) the being had to disintegrate into a world of multiplicity, whose individual beings all have the striving for non-existence; 4) in this striving they hinder each other, they fight with each other and in this way weaken their strength; 5) the whole being of God passed into the world in a changed form, as a certain sum of power; 6) the whole world, the universe, has one goal, non-being, and achieves it by continuously weakening its sum of power; 7) each individual, by weakening its power, is brought in its course of development to the point where its striving for destruction can be fulfilled.” Frederick C. Beiser talks a little more about the main idea of Mainländer: “We live only so that we die, because the deepest longing within all of us is for peace and tranquillity, which is granted to us only in death. In this longing of all things for death, we are only participating, unbeknownst to ourselves, in the deeper and broader cosmic process of the divine death. We long to die, and we are indeed dying, because God wanted to die and he is still dying within us.” “In the course of explaining Christian doctrine, Mainländer introduces a very modern and redolent theme: the death of God. He popularized the theme before Nietzsche, though he gives it a much more metaphysical meaning. Besides the death of God, Mainländer’s philosophy contains another signature doctrine, one no less powerful, puzzling and original. This is his idea of the death wish, i.e. that the inner striving of all beings, the final goal of all their activity, is death. At the core of everyone, Mainländer teaches us, lies their deep longing for utter nothingness. Schopenhauer’s aimless and blind will turns out to have a goal after all: death. Mainländer admits that there is an instinct for self-preservation in all of us; but he insists that, upon reflection, this desire for life is really only the means for death. We will life only for the sake of death. Mainländer finds this longing for death not only in each individual, but in the general process of history, whose sole and ultimate goal is death.” And: “It is in this context that Mainländer introduces his dramatic concept of the death of God. This primal unity, this single universal substance, has all the attributes of God: it is transcendent, infinite and omnipotent. But since it no longer exists, this God is dead. Yet its death was not in vain. From it came the existence of the world. And so Mainländer declares in prophetic vein: “God is dead and his death was the life of the world”. This is Mainländer’s atheistic interpretation of the Christian trinity, to which he devotes much attention in the second volume of Die Philosophie der Erlösung. “The father gives birth to the son”—Article 20 of the Nicene Creed—means that God (the father) sacrifices himself in creating the world (the son). God exists entirely in and through Christ, so that the death of Christ on the cross is really the death of God himself. With that divine death, Mainländer proclaims, the mystery of the universe, the riddle of the Sphinx, is finally resolved, because the transcendent God, the source of all mystery, also disappears.” (Frederick C. Beiser – Weltschmerz. Pessimism in German Philosophy 1860–1900) (for more information look for r/Mainlander on reddit) (even physics assume something like this in the ideas of the big bang and entropy death of the universe, similar thoughts can also be found in Pandeism and in God’s Debris: A Thought Experimen, which is a 2001 novella by Dilbert creator Scott Adams)
    4. as a seeing will to value as with Otto Weininger. It would be a metaphysical, extra-worldly value that man teleologically strives for in his innermost being. The causa finalis would thus become something transcendent. With these four quite plausible interpretations one will come to completely different moral conclusions than to those which are contained in Thomistic natural law. Let us now take a closer look at Schopenhauer and Weininger.
    The pessimist and friend of a teleological (but not theological) world view Arthur Schopenhauer interprets nature as a blind, instinctive will to live. But instead of saying that self-preservation and reproduction are moral goals, as one would expect from a natural lawyer, he comes to the opposite conclusion. The pursuit of self-preservation and reproduction is a painful process in all possible respects. This suffering can never be eliminated, not even for the shortest moment. This is simply due to the nature of the will itself as a constantly striving and never satisfiable desire, and to the fact that there are other wills in the world that inevitably thwart its goals (the failure and non-fulfilment of goals is therefore an integral part of Schopenhauer’s world). Life is therefore clearly a bad thing for Schopenhauer (the good is defined only negatively as the absence of the positive bad and evil). Unfortunately, it is impossible to avoid considering it just as bad. Accordingly, there can only be one ethical way, namely to deny the will (one’s own essence) through asceticism and quietism. Schopenhauer’s Essentialism cannot therefore provide a direct guideline for morality. As a natural lawyer, you have to be a philosophical optimist in order to appear credible in the intellectual world. For even as an advocate of telelogy (in a non-theological sense), as an essentialist and as a Platonist in some sense, one can, if one is pessimistic enough, strictly reject natural law with the credo “not being is better than being”. As a result, one would not be able to convince Buddhists of natural law. Christians who emphasize the original sin and sinfulness of nature might also turn out to be resistant if one wants to make natural law appealing to them. Finally, Schopenhauer only has the following to say about philosophical optimism: “Optimism, where it is not just the thoughtless talk of someone with only words in his flat head, strikes me as not only absurd, but even a truly wicked way of thinking, a bitter mockery of the unspeakable sufferings of humanity.” But also the Catholic natural lawyer will not be able, strictly speaking, to stand up for the philosophical optimism needed for his theory in view of hell. No one, according to Catholic teaching, can see how far away one has already departed from God, so that no one can be sure whether he or she has made, or will soon make, a final decision against God (even if one has a blissful unsuppressable feeling of confidence that one will be spared). So there is always the possibility for one to go to hell. Consequently, it seems cruel to bring children into the world (remember: the conservation of the species is a very important natural law purpose in Thomism), that is, to irrevocably expose them to the possible danger of ending up in eternal hell. One can do one’s best in education, but the development of children is not always in the hands of the parents. The children could fall away from their faith as adults and thus already stand with one foot in Satan’s kingdom, and this does not seem unlikely if Feser is right with his description of modern society as a cesspool of manure, which is supposed to go morally even further downwards.
    The only will that is not blind compared to the ones mentioned above is the conscious will to value, conceived by Otto Weininger. For Weininger, the “birth of Kant’s ethics” is the “most heroic act in world history”. Kant’s critique of practical reason is “the most sublime book” and there is “no other ethics” than that of Kant. Feser does not understand that Kant’s ethics follows the tradition of Plato and Saint Augustine. It is above all Kant’s concern to determine the metaphysical idea of the good, and he tries to do this more precisely than his predecessors. Feser seems to be very superficial when it comes to Kant’s assessment, which Weininger accuses many of: “In Kant’s ethics, nothing is understood as little as the demand to act according to a most general maxim. One still thinks one has to see something social in this, Büchner’s ethics (“What you don’t want people to do to you”, etc.), a guideline for a penal code.” Kant’s ethics is like Plato’s ethics (and Plato is highly valued by Feser) basically mystical. Weininger: “The idea of a completely free being is the idea of God; the idea of a being mixed of freedom and unfreedom is the idea of man. As far as man is free, i.e. wills freely, he is God. And so Kant’s ethics is in the deepest sense mystical […]” As Schopenhauer summarizes Kant’s ethics quoting Kant, the moral law “may not be sought in the nature of man (the subjective), nor in the circumstances in the world (the objective)”; and “not the least [may] be borrowed thereby […] from the knowledge of man, i. e. Anthropology.” Kant repeats that “one must not allow oneself to think of deriving the reality of one’s moral principle from the very nature of human beings; likewise […] everything that is derived from a particular natural disposition of mankind, from certain feelings and attachments, even, where possible, from a particular direction that would be characteristic of human nature and would not necessarily have to apply to the will of every rational being, cannot provide a basis for moral law”. Weininger interprets Kant as follows: “Truth, purity, faithfulness, uprightness, with reference to oneself; these give the only conceivable ethics. Duty is only duty to oneself, duty of the empirical ego to the intelligible ego. These appear in the form of two imperatives that will always put to shame every kind of psychologism – the logical law and the moral law. The internal direction, the categorical imperatives of logic and morality which dominate all the codes of social utilitarianism are factors that no empiricism can explain.” (Otto Weininger – SEX & CHARACTER). And: “Logic and ethics are fundamentally the same, they are no more than duty to oneself. They celebrate their union by the highest service of truth, which is overshadowed in the one case by error, in the other by untruth. All ethics are possible only by the laws of logic, and logic is no more than the ethical side of law. Not only virtue, but also insight, not only sanctity but also wisdom, are the duties and tasks of mankind. Through the union of these alone comes perfection.” (Otto Weininger – SEX & CHARACTER) Kantian Morality is in any case inseparably linked with logic and not dependent on any contingent natural phenomena such as those of one’s own body. Weininger also tries to justify the “the demand for the sexual abstinence on the part of both sexes”: “Coitus is immoral because there is no man who does not use woman at such times as a means to an end; for whom pleasure does not, in his own as well as her being, during that time represent the value of mankind. During coitus a man forgets all about everything, he forgets the woman; she has no longer a psychic but only a physical existence for him. He either desires a child by her or the satisfaction of his own passion; in neither case does he use her as an end in herself, but for an outside cause. This and this alone makes coitus immoral.”(Otto Weininger – SEX & CHARACTER) Weininger’s ethics is summarized as follows: “But it is only he who feels that every other man is also an ego, a monad, an individual centre of the universe, with specific manner of feeling and thinking and a distinct past, he alone is in a position to avoid making use of his neighbours as means to an end, he, according to the ethics of Kant, will trace, anticipate, and therefore respect the personality in his companion (as part of the intelligible universe), and will not merely be scandalised by him.” (Otto Weininger – SEX & CHARACTER) If man’s essence were purely spiritual, then it is clear that animal impulses should be given as little space as possible to unfold, that is, in this respect only the most necessary for life should be done so as not to endanger one’ s morality. In sexuality, even if it should implement all the guidelines of Thomism, the metaphysical idea of what is good, according to Weininger, is violated to a high degree.
    As one can see, there are many alternatives, and probably some more than those mentioned here (I have now simply referred to radical alternatives, which I myself do not support. There are many other varieties as well. By merely thinking of them as possible, they put any other concept into perspective), to determine man’s nature and derive an ethic from it, provided one has no problem with naturalistic or moralistic fallacies. And none of these ethics, as we have seen, would end up being similar to the others. Although Feser upheld teleology, he did not make it clear that in the history of philosophy there were many teleology-like concepts that did not refer to the Christian God. This is especially the case in the effective and worldwide influential German philosophy. The neglect of teleology-like thoughts can definitely not be blamed on the development of philosophy since modern times, as Feser does. I now had to quote larger passages so that one could better understand how one can interpret the essence of nature in other ways as well.

  4. II.2 Feser confidently asserts the following sentence, which is of great ethical importance to him: Every sexual act (a sensual action involving a possible ejaculation) must have only procreation as the indispensable primary purpose! For Feser this sentence is apparently self-evident and immediately obvious as an axiom, in contrast to the Catholic theologian Grisez, for whom this sentence itself is neither obvious nor easy to prove (Germain Grisez – INADEQUATE ARGUMENTS in Contraception and the Natural Law 1964). In any case, according to Feser, the main purpose of sex is reproduction, and any other use of one’ s sexual abilities, for example for foreplay, fun or emotional attachment, is secondary. While Feser may call what falls under this secondary use purposes, they are only permitted optional means to the sole purpose of reproduction, in other words, they are only accidental accessories. But how can I be sure that ejaculation can only take place in the vagina for the purpose of reproduction and nowhere else? How can I completely rule out the possibility that there are other nature-given primary purposes of sexuality? The fact that the ejaculate in the vagina often, but not too often (actually rather rarely), causes reproduction does not prove that there is only one ultimate natural purpose of the sexual act. There may be other natural forms of sexuality outside the context of reproduction that serve other natural purposes as their own primary purposes. The Thomist basically cannot logically rule this out. At most he could say: It may well be that there is one or another purpose of this kind. Since I cannot see them myself under any circumstances, but only clearly see the one that ultimately serves reproduction, I do not want to take any unnecessary moral risk. All well and good. However, if such forms of sexuality do exist, one must admit that the realization of their specific purposes does not automatically lead to the frustration of the reproductive purpose. For this one purpose is no longer important at all at the moment when another is aspired to and realized. The purpose of reproduction in such a possible case is, if at all, only secondary and optional. You can understand all this better if you look into the animal kingdom, which Aquinas also likes to do. In many cases the sexual behaviour of animals is not only about reproduction. The least that can be said on this subject is that a sexual stimulation that an animal carries out on itself, or that is brought about by members of the same species (whether heterosexual or homosexual), is quite normal in the animal world, without it resulting in reproduction. And sometimes the sodomitic activities of the animals even lead to a wasted ejaculation, as with the orangutans. Especially interesting is the case of a squirrel species living in desert areas, the Cape Ground Squirrels, whose males occasionally perform autofellatio. After an ordinary copulation with a female, the male satisfies himself orally and swallows his own semen. The purpose of this procedure, according to the researchers, is to clean the seminal and urethral tubes. An infection is to be avoided thereby. Urine would be too expensive and a waste of liquid.
    One can now make a simple thought experiment with that squirrel, which is just satisfying itself, by giving it “from outside” a spirit, which, according to Aristotle, also comes “from outside” in human beings. Thus the male with his new consciousness can encounter moral mines in every one of his actions. After ejaculation, however, one cannot accuse him of having violated the purpose of reproduction and thus sinned. This would be ridiculous. Reproduction really didn’t play a role at that moment, in this context. The purpose of cleansing was given alone and decisive. Let the female bonobos also have a rational mind and ask them if they would thwart something in their nature by rubbing their clitoris together to orgasm. From their point of view, their sexual behavior would reduce social tensions and build social bonds. That would be more than justified teleologically. For Aquinas, too, there is the higher purpose of sociability. If one wants to object here that the animal world is not suitable as a possible model for a foundation of an ethic (under the aspect of evolution it is indeed possible), then Aquinas must also not look into the animal world, then he must look more closely into the anatomical and physiological nature of man with its functionalities, into that nature, then, which, as Andrew Sullivan (Chapter 3 The Theoconservative Project in The Conservative Soul) puts it, doesn’t really care whether the male seed is, under any circumstances, to speak mildly, a little wasted (that’s the unavoidable conclusion of summarizing all the empirical facts). Or Aquinas doesn’t even look into human nature at all, and, like Kant, tries to derive an ethic a priori only from the intellectual soul, the conception of which, however, is somewhat confused in the case of Aquinas.
    Is it nevertheless possible to transfer to humans what applies in general to some animals, such as the squirrels or bonobos mentioned above, by analogy? I do not mean to say that these special cases should be applied to humans; it is only a question of the basic idea, which is legitimate even without examples from the animal realm. More specifically, can a natural ability in another context or under other circumstances have a different natural and ultimate purpose, so that in the end there is a different natural primary purpose depending on the context? Can different situations lead to different primary purposes of a natural thing? Can there be a case where something is an obligatory purpose in one context but only an optional one in another? Can the Thomist rule this out with absolute certainty and declare it impossible? If one admits the theory of evolution, the claim of impossibility will hardly be justifiable anymore. Nor can anything be ruled out by defending Aristotle’s principle that everything that applies to artifacts (a single knife to eat, hunt, admire, trade, carve, threaten, shave, carve, kill, show off, and melt, depending on the situation) can be legitimately applied to all natural things. Even Kant, who is rigorous in moral matters and thinks deontologically, (due to the “power of context”) “grants a casuistry a systematic place in the building of his ethics” and devotes himself to casuistic questions, “to what extent exceptions to the strict rule, e.g. in the question of suicide, white lies, the enjoyment of wine, can be permitted under certain circumstances”. So, in my opinion, besides reproduction one could assume three other equal (in the sense of a hierarchy) real purposes of sexuality (if they even deserve this name in another context), which do not seem abstruse or far-fetched, but correspond to a certain Common Sense (one could also name others like spiritual exaltation [in Hindu cultures] or sex as a test whether one fits together with the other at all on a physical level). These three (possible) natural (final) purposes each take place in their own context, the contexts of pubertal adolescence, love display and health promotion. And what has been said before would also apply to them, namely that as soon as one of these primary purposes is pursued and fulfilled, the others do not play a decisive role, because they do not exist at this point, so to speak, but can at most be considered coincidentally and by the way. Moreover, for logical reasons, an activity can have only one particular final cause at a time. The proposition of contradiction excludes that several primary purposes can be assigned to one and the same thing at the same time:
    1) Personal maturity: If you want to start a family responsibly, you should definitely have reached a certain degree of maturity beforehand. Everyone would agree on that. It is indisputable today that the process of personal maturation, along with many other very important factors, encompasses all sexual activities, including sexual activities that are not related to marriage or reproduction. It is therefore expressly stated that “sexual development is part of personality development and begins with birth”. Experts also say (you should listen to experts as authorities, according to Feser) that psychosexual development cannot be separated from cognitive maturation processes. Even in infancy, a lot happens in the sexual sphere, which Freud recognised at his time. Dry orgasms come about through masturbation or randomly fitting body positions, both in boys and girls. With the onset of puberty, voluntary and involuntary ejaculations occur increasingly in young boys at night, during which nature itself, by the way, thwarts its own purposes on a gigantic scale (Feser gladly personifies nature in his speech; in addition, nature is ultimately the activity of God). Then one matures above all in contact with other children, which also includes the encounter with the opposite sex, an encounter which will inevitably have a sexual touch. Feser could hardly deny that one has to bring a certain personal maturity into a marriage in order for it to become reasonably stable. However, many man-boys may have to “break their horns” before they are ready for the bond of marriage. I don’t think Feser will want to say that a thirteen-year-old boy who “makes out” with a thirteen-year-old girl is immediately committed to reproduction and marriage. It’s clear that this can’t have a real future and is part of the Coming of Age process (and not a procreation process). Nature has “theoretically” already given them the physical sexual maturity and a minimum of intelligence for a marriage, but the personal maturity is still completely lacking. When this personal maturity is attained one day, it disappears from the stage as a final cause, so to speak. Until then, however, much could be safely subordinated to it. Here is a sketch of man’s sexual development, in the phases of which one can hardly speak of violations against natural law:
    “Up to 2 years: Genital manipulation; erection in boys; experience of pleasant genital feelings; enjoying nudity
    3 to 5 years: Pleasant masturbation, sometimes up to orgasm; sexual games with peers and siblings: showing one’s own genitals; exploration of one’s own genitals or those of other children; enjoying nudity; undressing in the presence of others.
    6 to 12 years: sexual games with peers and siblings; role plays and sexual fantasies; kissing, masturbation, simulated sexual intercourse; shame and embarrassment; sexual games are kept secret from adults; being in love and lovesickness; interest in sexuality in the media; beginning of pubertal changes: Menarche and breast development in girls; ejaculation in boys
    13 years and older: continuation of physical change; kissing, petting [petting is in principle a separate category that does not include reproduction], mutual masturbation; sexual fantasies and dreams; sexual intercourse” (found on a German psychology site)
    2) love: Man is perhaps mainly a spiritual, emotional and erotic being and secondarily an animal and lustful one. The spiritual, emotional and erotic union between two people that can happen in the sexual act, but does not have to, is an expression of true love and affection. This noble purpose of union is also recognized by Christians who then refer to a passage from the Bible in Matthew 19:5-6: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” Feser introduces this purpose only very briefly, without further explanation, so that it appears as a strange and curious element in his remarks on sexual morality. The unifying purpose can be considered either as fully equal to the reproductive purpose or only secondary like any other tender action that does not directly serve the reproductive process. However, if it were merely secondary, it would either have to be completely negligible, so that it would not matter whether married couples love each other at all. Or it is an obligatory means to the end of reproduction like ejaculation in the vagina. I think both would not be in Feser’s sense (ergo, the purpose of love is on an equal footing). From a Catholic couple, who is bound to each other forever by a single sexual act, but who since this act cannot stand each other at all, but nevertheless does not want to renounce sex, one cannot demand the spiritual, emotional and erotic purpose of union. It is well known that love as a feeling cannot be forced. Anything else would be simply and poignantly absurd, whereby that marriage is already based on an absurd basis.
    3) health: Sex has been proven to be healthy for body and mind. It strengthens the immune system, counteracts depression, reduces frustration and even prolongs life: “It has been shown several times in studies that people in happy relationships with a fulfilled sex life get older than others[.]” (a german newspaper) This alone represents a higher purpose than mere pleasure and fun. Aristotle also acknowledges the purpose of health under certain circumstances (consequently in a certain context) when he says: “And now, having determined at what ages men and women are to begin their union, let us also determine how long they shall continue to beget and bear offspring for the state; men who are too old, like men who are too young, produce children who are defective in body and mind; the children of very old men are weakly. The limit then, should be the age which is the prime of their intelligence, and this in most persons, according to the notion of some poets who measure life by periods of seven years, is about fifty; at four or five years or later, they should cease from having families; and from that time forward only cohabit with one another for the sake of health; or for some similar reason.” (Aristotle Politics Book Seven Part XVI) As Aristotle says, making children at a certain age, when one is too young or too old, had a negative influence on the health development of the children. Therefore, if they had existed at that time, he would have spoken out in favour of the use of contraceptives in certain cases. And also in Thomistic natural law, self-preservation, by which one must primarily understand the preservation of one’s own health, is a higher purpose to which one can temporarily subordinate or sacrifice various bodily functions (use of catheters, artificial nutrition, plaster application, etc.). Feser brings only a radical example of a necessary amputation of a limb to stay alive. This means, for example, that I cannot have a kidney removed from me to feed my dogs. That would be a violation of natural law. But if a kidney has to be removed so that a serious disease cannot spread, then there is no violation, not even in the act of removal itself. But what would Feser say about a semen sample that is absolutely necessary for a vital examination (Feser can only say “permitted” or “not permitted. When he says the former, he definitely makes a big concession)? According to a friend of mine, using a treadmill in the gym would frustrate the primary purpose of walking, which is to get from A to B. On the treadmill, however, you stay on the same spot. The person training would say he or she is doing it for health reasons. The workout context makes the supposed main purpose of an ability vanish from one’s sight, as it is not even aspired to. One works only against an atrophy of the ability. There can be no objection to the preservation and care of physical/mental faculties through pure activity and exercise under the aspect of general (physical and mental) health, the aspect of a health consciousness that considers the soul as a form “completely in the whole body and completely in each of its parts” (Kant).
    Why should what has been said not apply to all human abilities, for health is ultimately the most fundamental requirement for the realization of these abilities? Other examples: Although chewing low-nutrient chewing gum abuses the chewing movement and cheats the stomach, it is okay because it promotes a healthy mouth flora, keeps the chewing muscles in good condition and increases the ability to concentrate. The ability to use one’s own body as a weapon against other people is then purposefully activated when I have to take up self-defence in a real situation, make a criminal unable to fight or kill an opponent in war. The goal, which is fixed with every form of self-defence, is not even aimed at in combat training and is therefore never realized. Still, I’m not doing anything wrong. The context is simply a different one. With sexuality, as it looks to natural lawyers, it seems that it is not just about a possible perversion of a natural ability, but above all the importance of a function being at stake.
    For me the sentence or principle that is: “Every sexual act must serve only reproduction as its main purpose! (Anything else would be sin!)” is not an axiomatic premise, but merely a possible conclusion from different premises. At the end of Feser’s remarks a reason is finally given why sexuality is not allowed to use the genitals for purposes other than those for which they were allegedly intended. The brief justification is as follows: it is a matter of preserving the human species. Thus we get an argument, why the frustration of the reproductive purpose during the sexual act is intrinsically wrong, so that with the issue of sex no exceptions are tolerated. Unfortunately, Feser does not go to any trouble to explain this in more detail, perhaps he suspects that he might get into an argumentative circle. Because one could ask now: Why is the preservation of the species so important? And he would get the answer: Because sex is aimed at preserving the species. This in turn would provoke the question: But why shouldn’t I undermine the possibility of reproduction during sex? Answer: Because the preservation of the species is important. The preservation of the species justifies sex and sex justifies the preservation of the species. One justifies the other and the other way around. As I said, such a justification would be the pure circle. In my opinion, it is indeed hidden in Aquinas reasoning. Elsewhere, however, Aquinas says that his ethics and its principles are simply self-evident and therefore need no logical justification. As with Moses, then simply in the moral sphere a “That is so, no objection” is created. The rationale seems to me to be in the clutches of the Münchhausen trilemma. This fact is then simply covered up with clever rationalizations. Simply assuming that this supposedly intuitive principle in sexuality is correct and true means: ignoring the (actual) question. The question is: Why is this principle right and true in itself? The natural lawyer considers the reproductive ability in sexual action only for itself, isolated and as if it were a completely independent good “with absolute rights of its own” (Grisez) and not just one ability among many that are subordinate to man as a whole. If one wants to stick rigidly to morality, one has to realize that a final proof cannot be given: “It cannot be proven that people ought to do the good, for if that could be deduced, then the idea of the good would be the consequence of a cause, and thus could become the means to an end. If it ought to be done, then in order to be done for its own sake the good must be identical to that which absolutely cannot be the consequence of a cause, or the means to an end. But equally, I cannot prove why the true is to be chosen before the false; truth cannot justify its claim against falsity, against insanity and deceit, any more than Kant was able to make the good more plausible in the chapter of his philosophy of religion that deals with “The Legal Claim of the Good Principle over the Evil”. One does not argue against the devil. One stands firm against him, or one forfeits to him.” (OTTO WEININGER – ON LAST THINGS)
    Aquinas brings two examples of harmless misappropriation: Walking on the hands or using the legs and feet as arm and hand replacements. According to Aquin, these are small sins or no sins at all. Feser then gives an example, not directly for a misappropriation (if there is any difference at all), but for an action directed against the realization of a purpose of the body, namely when one tries to clean one’s ears with cotton swabs, although the ears clean themselves. The ears do this by pushing the earwax, which catches dust or bacteria, for example, and absorbs dead skin cells, outwards to the outer ear, while the cotton swabs push it back inside (contrary to the natural direction): “The substance is constantly formed in the ear and then [by “fine hairs” in the ear canal] slowly pushed towards the ear outlet”. “In addition, earwax is “a mixture of fats that keeps the pH value of the skin low”, which makes “germs less able to survive”. For Feser the use of cotton swabs is nevertheless only a small virtue sin, a tiny offence. But this sin is not really that small. One expert warns: “If you use cotton swabs inside your ear, you run the risk of getting seriously injured. Since the auditory canal is quite narrow and the skin in it is very sensitive, the swab can easily cause bleeding. In rare cases, it comes to drumhead tears or cuts. Some injuries even require surgery.” In some cases, the skin is also “temporarily no longer protected by the removal of the wax” and therefore quickly dries out[.]” Inflammations of the auditory canal, which can become chronic, and eardrum injuries can eventually develop into hearing loss, including deafness. Does Feser see the danger of destroying an important sense organ as just a small sin? If I scratch my eye with a pen, would it be just as insignificant? Be that as it may. Purposes of bodily functions can therefore indeed be frustrated without great sin, or some bodily organs can also be misappropriated if the general human good is not injured (completely sinless is a teleological deviation if it serves a legitimate higher purpose). Aquinas also mentions some human goods such as self-preservation, reproduction, social life and sainthood. These also seem to be in a kind of hierarchy that urgently demands justification.
    In my opinion, however, the purpose of the sexual bodily function cannot be frustrated (which means the same to me here: the sexual parts of the body cannot be misused) because two premises that were considered very important in ancient times oppose this:
    1) One should preserve the human species, i.e. reproduce.
    2) The male sperm potentially contains the complete living “individual body” of man. So the animal soul/form of man is already fully contained in the semen.
    According to Anthony Kenny it was believed in older times that the individual body already existed before conception in the form of the fatherly semen. Aristotle thought very similarly, and why should this be only a small insignificant detail for Aquinas and the first Thomists who adopted this train of thought? The idea goes back more than two thousand years. It has thus perhaps somehow become emotionally entrenched in us and still subliminally suggests to us that man’s semen is something quite sacred. Let’s let Anthony Kenny talk two times: “But in addition to those who thought that the individual soul existed before conception, there have been those who thought that the individual body existed before conception, in the shape of the father’s semen. Onan, in Genesis, spilt his seed on the ground; in Jewish tradition this was seen not only as a form of sexual pollution, but an offence against life. Aquinas, in the Summa Contra Gentiles, in a chapter on “the disordered emission of semen” treats both masturbation and contraception as a crime against humanity, second only to homicide. Such a view is natural in the context of a biological belief that only the male gamete provides the active element in conception, so that the sperm is an early stage of the very same individual as eventually comes to birth. Masturbation is then the same kind of thing, on a minor scale, as the exposure of an infant.” (Anthony Kenny – Life stories) And again in other words: “Aquinas is often invoked in contemporary discussions of the morality of contraception and abortion. In fact, he had very little to say on either topic. Contraception is discussed, along with masturbation, in a question in the Summa contra Gentiles concerning ‘the disordered emission of semen’. Aquinas maintains that this is a crime against humanity, second only to homicide. This claim rests on the belief that only the male provides the active element in conception, so that the sperm has an individual history continuous with the embryo, the fetus, and the infant. In fact, of course, male and female gametes contribute equally to the genetic constitution of the eventual human being. An embryo, unlike the father’s sperm or semen, is the same individual organism as an infant at birth. For Aquinas, the emission of semen in circumstances unsuitable for conception was the same kind of thing, on a minor scale of course, as the exposure or starvation of an individual infant. That is why he thought masturbation a poor man’s version of homicide.” (Anthony Kenny – Medieval Philosophy)
    Premises 1 (only means I could also put the living semen in an artificial vessel where it would live on) and 2 together, in my opinion, historically led to the ethically weighty conclusion: “Any sexual act must serve only reproduction as its highest purpose! Anything else would be a sin! If you drop both, however, the sexuality that prevents reproduction is quite obviously on the same low moral level as walking on one’s hands or cleaning one’s ears with cotton swabs, which is harmless for Feser. Sex for mere fun would therefore be a morally very unimportant thing.
    What happens if one only maintains the first premise, since the second is already scientifically refuted. The first premise is so unspecific and general that it does not logically follow that any sexual action must be primarily aimed at reproduction. The maintenance of the species is also subject to other factors such as the environment and politics (overpopulation, for example, is an important reproductive factor for Aristotle); and factors such as personal maturity (as explained above), health (too old couples must even abort for Aristotle) and material resources must also be considered. The only important thing is that, as a rule, all humans are expected to reproduce sooner or later. And if it is intended concretely, then only under circumstances that are conducive to the preservation of humanity. What would not be possible and, moreover, immoral would be: self-castration, a total avoidance of child production in long-lasting, well-off and fruitful marriages, gay marriage and the priestly vow of virginity, whereby every woman is avoided and the sexual organ is left atrophied. Independent of all this, the premise itself is problematic. Antinatalism provides some convincing arguments for this (cruelty/harshness of the world, politically difficult times, gloomy prospects for the future), making the first premise obsolete. Also the natural lawyer relativizes his own basic premise. Because nobody has the moral obligation to get involved in the natural process whose natural end includes a possible fertilization of an egg cell. A (relativizing) choice is there in this case. However, it will hardly exist in relation to health, sociability and holiness. In addition, the natural lawyer allows the removal of diseased generative organs for the benefit of the whole body (an example is given below). The principle for this would be something like this: Each imperfect part is dedicated solely to the perfect (de facto teleological) whole. Why then should contraceptive sexual intercourse not serve the good of the whole in some form, however trivial (sexual activity is now regarded as a basic need and the non-fulfilment of this need as a lack of quality of life)? I would have to say that this non-reproductive sexual intercourse is not beneficial to the good of the whole and that it even damages that good. How do I do that? To what extent is it damaged? For the common good (or the overall benefit) of man, I can treat animals (e.g. drinking cow’s milk, which is intended only for calves and therefore, in the opinion of some, is unhealthy for man) and artefacts (e.g. a large book as a pedestal) improperly. Why shouldn’t this apply to all human abilities? Alan Donagan also asks himself this question: „If St. Thomas considers that rational beings have the right to interfere with and even destroy sub-rational natural things for their own purposes, why should he think it wrong per se for them to interfere, for their own purposes, with the natural activities in which they engage?“ (ALAN DONAGAN – THE SCHOLASTIC THEORY OF MORAL LAW IN THE MODERN WORLD in: Aquinas – A Collection of Critical Essays 1969) I am allowed to give away single body parts or temporarily block and pervert them for the purpose of my physical and mental health (blocking is allowed if the human good is simply not harmed as with a short walk on my hands). Why does sexuality occupy a special position in all these possibilities? That being different (from the perspective of natural lawyers) in sexuality is always a big sin and impossible a small one or none at all, is simply a blank assertion. If I somehow feel like I’ve eaten something bad, then I’m allowed to induce artificial vomiting. If I sleep with a woman unprotected, but have the dark feeling that a possible fertilization would not lead to anything good, why shouldn’t I use another contraceptive like coitus interruptus? If an organ is ill and endangers the whole organism, as in the case of testicular cancer, there is clearly something “evil” that needs to be eliminated. And if modern medical technology is not yet ready (let’s construct the example this way), amputation would be the only way to heal quickly.. An organ is sacrificed to the good of the whole. If, on the other hand, one is very sexually frustrated and this frustration (since Sigmund Freud really no longer a trifle) burdens the whole psyche (and thus in Hylemorphism the whole body), then there is also something “evil” that has to be eliminated as well. However, if I haven’t found my great love yet, in this case a consensual casual sex remains the only way to quickly stabilize and heal my very tense psyche. Here a possible pregnancy is “sacrificed” to the good of the whole. Thus, an irreversible medical intervention and a short-term use of contraceptives are conceptually opposed. Why should there be an unbridgeable gap between them? Before one tries to answer, it would not be wrong to ask oneself another question: Why must the common good of man (the good of the whole) be interpreted in a Christian or religious way? Why can it not be understood under the aspect of good life as opposed to the aspect of pure survival? Let’s listen to another example from Grisez “on the conduct of women engaged in lactation”: “In many cases there is excess milk and it is pumped out of the breasts and thrown away. The infant may be fed artificially during a temporary separation from his mother while she continues regularly to empty her breasts artificially and to waste their product. No one condemns this conduct nor even demands that there be a serious cause to justify it.” “Yet lactation is the essential end of a very important natural faculty. And, like sex, it depends upon depositing a valuable glandular secretion in the appropriate natural receptacle. But mere convenience is a good enough reason for interfering in this process. Hence if contraception really is seriously wrong there must be some reason for its malice that has nothing to do with what these two cases have in common -i.e., preventing an important faculty from attaining its natural end.” Sexuality is the most important bastion of arch-conservatism against the liberal (dominant) tendencies in society. Conservatives must defend this bastion by all means, otherwise they will have lost the cultural battle forever. This is why they are so stubborn. Moreover, sex for fun has always been perceived in cultural history as a great insult to a creator god. He created us in a certain way, as creationism says, and so he feels strongly insulted as we believe when his creation acts differently than planned (as we at least understand the plan). That is what underlies the whole, it is a superstition. And perhaps there is something else that is hidden even under this superstition. Perhaps something biological, so that one could say cautiously: “It is certainly true that many religions teach young people that premarital and extramarital sex are evils to be avoided. But the results of our studies suggest that the causal arrow may go in the opposite direction as well. Not only can religion shape people’s sexuality, but people’s [biologically anchored] sexual strategies can also shape their religiosity.” (Douglas T. Kenrick – Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life)

    1. little addition:
      About the aspect of love: Man can have intercourse simply out of love unlike animals. This is what distinguishes him/her as human.

      1. Short supplement on the aspect of the purpose of love:
        If anyone objected: Why do you have to use contraception if you want to show your love, then I could say: pregnancy and a baby would be total love killers, because in many cases deep romantic love ends with a child.The same applies to the principle of totality. If anyone objected: why do you need to make use of this principle for sex, namely through contraceptive sex? My answer would be the same: pregnancy and a baby would be disadvantageous for the totality of myself, contraceptive sex would be to the full advantage of that totality (at least in the moment).

  5. III. Even if one ignores these fundamental problems, many questions still arise. Feser, for example, makes questionable concessions in his version of natural law. According to Feser, oral sex can be part of the sexual prelude without any problems, as long as the ejaculation happens at the end in the vagina. Feser does not mention the hated anal sex, but for theoretical reasons it must not be excluded, even if it is rather unusual (even in the protected mode) as foreplay. But teleologically, the penis has lost nothing in the woman’s mouth, let alone in her backside. One must not forget. Feser had before vehemently pointed out that it is completely obvious, even for the most blinded person, that the erect penis fits perfectly into the vagina, and therefore only belongs there. Here is another problematic concession: sterile couples may have sex with each other, although they know that fertilisation is impossible because perhaps the woman has no uterus or the man no longer has testicles. But sex with a completely sterile person can no longer be distinguished from contraceptive sex. In both cases, I participate in a natural process that I know will never reach its goal (the story behind the sterility doesn’t matter morally). If one is allowed, the other must be also allowed. Grisez on this: “However, those who defend contraception claim that contraceptive intercourse can have the same good purposes as other licit though unfruitful sexual relations.” Natural law must clearly prohibit sexual intercourse when one knows that the other is demonstrably infertile, since the maintenance of the human species is supposed to be decisive (but the Church does not want this prohibition, since it contains absurd implications). Also the adherence to an indissoluble monogamous marriage, although the man could perhaps still provide for many women without problems and raise many children in an exemplary manner, and although his present children have grown up and become independent, is for me rationally incomprehensible. Therefore one can confidently say here: “One must, for example, endow the nature of men with abundant Western cultural assets in order to be able to justify the monogamous marriage or even its indissolubility”. (Max Ernst Meyer) Non-serial monogamy and anti-polygamy do not belong to human nature from the point of view of evolutionary psychologists.
    Sterile couples should at least pretend to procreate during sex, i.e. the sex must end with some form of ejaculation in the vagina (perhaps only an imaginary form, accompanied by dry orgasms when ejaculation is no longer possible). Anything else would be totally sinful. This is absurd. Why should the couple pretend. That makes no sense. If certain organs or natural abilities are missing, there can be no more purposes for them. If I don’t have eyes anymore, I’m not obliged to pretend I can see with eyes. It would only be a superstitious adherence to a mere external form or order of things.
    A man should not divorce, especially if he has just fathered a child. Without him, his child would quickly become poor. So says Thomistic ethics. But if a man suddenly wants to lead a holy life, he can leave his wife and child immediately without any problems. A holy life justifies the impoverishment of the child, about which the natural lawyers were concerned to the highest degree shortly before. This includes a very bizarre moral rationale. The end justifies the means here (This principle of natural law, however, is simply pushed aside by the question of artificial insemination). If there is a highest purpose for human nature, as Thomism claims, namely holiness, then this purpose should not be disregarded by anyone. The following should apply to everyone: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) The highest purpose cannot simply be an option. Because it corresponds in the last consequence to our innermost being, at least according to Thomism.
    The Christian ethics par excellence, the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount, has almost nothing to do with an ethics of natural law. The Sermon on the Mount proclaims a pure ethic of attitude (and also otherwise Christian ethics presents itself mainly as an ethic of compassion). One only has to look at the Sermon on the Mount, the passages from Matthew chapter 5,1-7,29, then one can ask oneself what they have to do with natural law. Namely, nothing. Also the Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12) shows no connection. In the Golden Rule, reference is made to one’s own (personal) will, which is precisely not the approach of natural law ethics. The Thomists often cannot decide what is more important in an action: the mere attitude or the realization of an external form. Sometimes one seems to be more important than the other, in another context vice versa. At least Feser did not make this point clear enough. What about, by the way, the one who only adheres strictly to natural law out of fear of hell? Kant would say that his compulsive actions were only outwardly moral, but did not result from a respectful appreciation of moral laws, because there was no genuine moral motive. Natural law should actually be consistently characterized as something purely external, the observance of which is also something purely external, so that the internal, the motive and attitude of a person is irrelevant. In this way one would have no difficulty in distinguishing a couple who uses calendars for contraception (fine for Catholics) from another one who uses condoms (sinful for Catholics). Because both couples would be completely identical in their ethos. On the other hand, there are no external differences between suicidal martyrdom and “normal” suicide, so that one should not approve of any form of suicide.
    Why does Aquinas look counterfactually into human life when he wants to determine the nature of man? That makes no sense. Therefore, many of his assumptions are contrary to those of evolutionary psychologists, who really strive to capture human nature scientifically. Aquinas, when making ethical theses, seems to make moralistic fallacies that are similar to naturalistic fallacies. With the moralistic fallacy, however, the opposite is the case: from what ought to be we draw conclusions about what is. X should be. That is why X is. X should not be. Therefore, X is not. This occurs when, contrary to empirical experience, human nature is inferred from beliefs and worldviews. A concrete example: Adultery and promiscuity are wrong. Consequently, we have no biological predisposition for several sexual partners. While adultery and promiscuity may be considered morally wrong, this has no influence on the biological aspects of humans, which could include promiscuity.
    The teleology of a partnership, a love partnership in which one should meet at eye level, is perhaps more realized with homosexual couples than with heterosexuals. Just think of Plato, for whom there can only be true love between men. One could say that homosexual couples miss the natural law in sexual respect, but fulfill it in a partnership respect. With heterosexual couples, it could be exactly the other way round (if you doubt it, you only need to see recordings of old talk shows). There should be no reason why the partnership aspect of an official marriage or normal love relationship should not have its own meaningful teleology. Because one must not forget that most of the time of living together is spent without sex. Although practiced homosexuality is usually rejected by natural law, it cannot reject any culture of homoeroticism (homoerotic tenderness) and thus homoerotic communal living.
    Can natural law serve as a legal basis? Can it tell us which form of society is best? Perhaps socialism/communism fits best with natural law (think of Plato’s state, in which man cannot be free because of his nature)?
    Natural law makes biblical moral commandments superfluous. For whom then are the biblical commandments, if natural law is to be so clear and unambiguous after all? For the less intelligent? Does Feser actually advocate a philosophical education for all people? Does he have a democratic educational ideal? Strangely enough, according to Aquinas, natural law is intended only for spiritual, intellectual people. The common people must adhere to the revelations. But how can an ethical theory that claims general validity for everyone be just one for a few specialists?
    The natural lawyer would have to show how to make a list of moral commandments in a believable hierarchical order (for example: murder is the worst offence and is therefore has the highest priority, then follows theft, then comes sodomy, etc.). No one would say that all possible transgressions of natural law that man can commit would be morally equivalent. That would have absurd consequences. A further question arises when considering which misconduct would be a matter for the state, i.e. a criminal offence. Should adultery again become a serious illegal offence? Or even homosexual anal intercourse? Should the attempted suicide be punished again? Masturbation would then perhaps have to be punished with the death penalty? All this would be crazy.
    Alcohol consumption for amusement is a clear offence against natural law. Willingly expose oneself to poisoning, which leads to the fact that one only has silliness in mind or becomes very aggressive, cannot be brought into harmony with natural law. That would be something that many Catholics who like to drink alcohol would never understand (they would never ever want to acknowledge it either). The Thomist may perhaps point to the natural-law purpose of sociability, which is promoted by alcohol consumption. But this kind of sociability has little value, because it only has a dull, seemingly happy, unbridled and primitive quality. The drunk is only for a short moment excessively pleasing to each person present (the next day it looks different again), he is quickly tempted to embarrassment, looking for a wife with ridiculous approaches and everything that comes out of his mouth are just empty promises, bad jokes or stinging remarks. Not only alcohol, all intoxicating substances outside a medical indication have no place in natural law.
    Another perspective: sperm and eggs are the main protagonists of sex. Their main goal is to merge. Everything else: Penis, vagina, penetration and pleasure are only means. If we do not seek out sexual partners, we do not give a single sperm a real chance of achieving its goal. Because even in the testicles, all sperm still have the primary goal of penetrating into an egg cell. However, they have a kind of barrier in front of them and fidget back and forth with impatience, especially as they won’t live too long. It simply cannot be avoided that the goal of millions of sperm and many eggs is frustrated.
    Among Catholic moral theologians there is no consensus on the justification of natural law. There are many (like Germain Grisez) who reject Feser’s argument, and Feser rejects their argument. We assume that both parties are right in their criticism because they are both well trained in the scholastic technique of argumentation, so that the natural law of the Thomists already dissolves from within. Grisez gives an assessment: “The many attempts over the years to show the intrinsic immorality of contraception using this faulty premise have exposed Catholic moral thought to endless ridicule and surely have caused harm in other ways.” (Germain Grisez – chapter 2 INADEQUATE ARGUMENTS in: Contraception and the Natural Law 1964, you can download it from a catholic site, just google it)
    Devils and demons, real existing beings for Catholics, also have their own teleological nature (for example, deceptive abilities that can only be applied to humans). Now this nature leads them to actions, which from our point of view are reprehensible, but from their point of view probably good, at least they correspond to their nature. Then perhaps there is no universal good?
    According to Feser, nature wants me to have lots of babies. But nature also wants me to have long hair and long fingernails, so she wants me to become a mophead. Even if there is no reason to let all hair grow long, at least a complete shave of all hair should be prohibited by natural law, because hair on different parts of the body certainly has a teleological function. It would be just as wrong not to have any fingernails at all, i.e. none that exceed the length of the fingers. Because one cannot deny a certain sense to them either.
    Aristotle is far from developing a theory of subjectivity, but there is a place in his works where he comes a little closer to such a theory. There he talks about a person’s anger and transfers his famous form/matter distinction to it. The felt anger itself is the form and the bubbling of the blood is the matter of this human activity and state, whereby the anger cannot be limited in its expression only to “the bubbling of the blood” (it belongs more to it like hitting on a table) and there is no anger that is not directed at something or someone (even if it is directed inwards against oneself). If, however, every form always implied purposefulness and every affect or inner inclination were also a form, this would clearly have to be of natural relevance. Thus Emmett Barcalow’s following remarks would be fully justified: “It may be that human beings, or at least male human beings, are naturally aggressive and prone to violence. After all, war and fighting seem to be such universal pastimes of men in all ages that one might conclude that the inherent nature of male human beings includes a strong tendency to behave violently. If that is so, should men act in accordance with their inherent nature or should they try to resist their inherent natural tendencies? Similarly, many people believe that the image of childhood as a time of innocence and purity is sentimental nonsense. In their view, children are inherently cruel and are brought to extinguish or control their inherent cruelty only through education and socialization. Consider the tendency of children to mercilessly taunt or bully those who are weaker than or different from themselves. We might maintain that the purpose of moral education is not to encourage people to give their inherent natures free rein but rather to tame their inherent natures. Similarly, suppose that human beings are inherently selfish or primarily self-interested and that altruism is not in accordance with the inherent nature of human beings. If this were true, would it follow that altruism is immoral and contrary to reason because it is not in accordance with the inherent nature of human beings?“ (Emmett Barcalow – PROBLEMS FOR NATURAL LAW THEORY, you can also find it on the internet)
    What if I fall intensely in love and resist this urge for superstitious or other reasons? Is that compatible with natural law? Is falling in love, which I have consciously allowed, already the point of no return in the teleology of sexuality, as Catholicism understands it, and thus also of marriage? The determination of such a point in time seems to be an impossible undertaking (Feser dogmatically assumes a Platonic idea of sexuality without being able to fully define it). And yet the natural lawyer needs this point, from which there is no turning back during the physical rapprochement between man and woman, no possibility to say stop, and consequently only the duty exists to direct the semen as soon as possible into the vagina (otherwise it would not be a problem if Tantra grandmasters have an orgasm during sex without ejaculating). According to Feser, sex begins very imprecisely with sexual arousal (an inner state) and ends with ejaculation in the vagina (a purely external event). Unfortunately, Feser’s definition is of no use at all.
    What if I urgently have to urinate during sexual intercourse, then surely I should also be free to pursue this urge and go to the toilet. But when I come back and the sexual mood is down, do I still have to finish the sexual act? If during sexual intercourse it occurs to me that I have an important appointment and have to go immediately, can I stop having sex? A fire suddenly breaks out, the corresponding alarm goes off, the baby screams and someone knocks on the door and quickly calls you in and with all this I am on the verge of climax or even in the middle of it, then I can certainly stop the act in which I have just been, even if a possible ejaculation should completely miss its target. According to which criteria should one be able to say when an abruption was legitimate or not?
    What about lesbian love? It should not be negatively affected by natural law. Because it would be nothing more than an exchange of tenderness, which should not be prohibited within natural law. Do women then possibly have a special status under natural law because their clitoris does not directly contribute to a pregnancy? Is there possibly no equality in natural law if the nature of women is slightly different from that of men (for conservatives this is the case)? One can also look at the phenomenon of tongue kissing. The tongue kiss may have a slightly different purpose for the man than for the woman. For the man it is a means to make the woman submissive to the sexual act. For the woman it is, so to speak, a ” tasting” of whether the man is the “right one” for a long-term relationship. So under Feser’s conditions an executed and correctly completed sexual act would not necessarily be obligatory for a woman as it is for a man. If the “chemistry isn’t right”, she could quickly veto it and prevent any form of physical contact.
    What are the actual motivating forces Feser mentions that spur you on to moral action? This question is not unimportant, since nothing good can be done without such impulses. Feser mentions disgust at least once. That this is rather a questionable reliable moral force is proven by the history of discrimination against mixed marriages, in which the feeling of disgust was decisive. Today’s generation also feels a lot of disgust for things that were considered “appealing” at one time. For Schopenhauer himself, there is only one moral driving force. As in Buddhism and actually also in Christianity, it is pity or empathy. What about an act of compassion, but not in accordance with natural law? Would that be an impossibility?
    The Thomistic ethics of natural law is based above all on the Aristotelian idea that all things in nature act according to final causes. However, to discern the ultimate purpose of a thing cannot succeed neither a posteriori nor a priori, that is, it cannot be derived empirically from experience nor logically from pure concepts. Every assumption of a certain purpose always remains hypothetical. It always remains open whether there is not a completely different purpose (or an additional one or none at all) or even a superordinate one, which labels the first assumed one as a mere means (possible supreme purposes of an organism: reproduction, self-preservation, increase of power, dying [this is even the most obvious goal/end about which there can be no doubt], subordinating oneself to a certain ecosystem, becoming part of an all-encompassing cosmic process, serving as food). This is also Kant’s view, for whom there are neither a priori nor empirical reasons for “the assumption of lawfulness through purposes which prove the reality of these purposes”. The Bible (and Aquinas himself says – I am a man of one book -, and that is of course the Bible) also virtually denies the possibility of fathoming the essence of things: “No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.”( Ecclesiastes 8:17) And: “No one can comprehend the height of heaven, the depth of the earth, or all that goes on in the king’s mind!” (Proverbs 25:3) Concrete purposes result only from a dogmatic overall explanation of the world. Without such an explanation one always floats in the unknown, which purposes exactly exist. And that what is effected is always also what is aimed at, which Feser somehow seems to assume, is more than questionable and problematic. According to Kant, a teleological view, in the sense of an analogous procedure, can be used for natural research when mechanistic laws are no longer sufficient to provide an explanation. Therefore teleology becomes indispensable, especially because one does not have to hope to understand “the production of even a single grass from mere mechanical causes” (Kant). But as an analogy, the principle also experiences its limits: To explain nature with purposes in an objective sense would be an overbearing assumption. Aristotle and Aquinas assume that the bodies of nature always, or mostly, strive for and effect the best. According to them, all things should have the best teleological goal for themselves. In order to be able to say what is best for a piece of iron, for example, one would somehow have to know in advance what is best for all inorganic things such as metals. But how should I know beforehand what the best thing is for a piece of iron under any circumstances? I could say that iron always makes the best of itself in any situation, no matter what it’s doing. When I say that, however, I introduce an aspect of value into a necessity without first having looked for good reasons for this new step. However, iron is iron qua iron and therefore does everything it does in its specific way, because it is iron. There is a pure necessity here (teleological or not), which in and of itself is value-free. According to Aristotle, a piece of iron wants to reach its natural place in the center of the universe. Because the stay at this place is good or best for that iron in terms of value. Now Aristotle could know all this neither a priori nor a posteriori. He had only suspected it from his speculative and ultimately false cosmology, so that the idea of a natural place in this form is no longer tenable. However, according to Kurt Flasch, Aquinas needs this “hidden aspect of value” in order to “see” the “first changer” as God. For Aquinas, change is “the realization of a meaningful form. With another “concept of natural processes, even an evil demon could preside over the value-free, even worthless changes” (Kurt Flasch). However, if teleology is exaggerated, i.e. if the causes of effect and the causes of purpose are not kept strictly apart, and if even both, including the aspect of value, are united, this would have fatal consequences for natural law. It would then simply be dismissed as an ethical theory. After all, everything in the world would happen as it should, and for the best. One could, simply put, not do anything wrong anymore and not talk about mistakes, malformations or abnormalities in nature (this thought is basically given in the concept of providence). And it actually looks as if Feser, without being aware of it, was stepping into this exaggeration with all his worship of purposes. Moreover, one always remains anthropomorphic, i.e. narrow and small, in teleological thinking. According to Fritz Mauthner, Aristotle even managed to make his teleological scale of values even narrower, even smaller. According to Mauthner, the value judgement is basically “the weak point of teleology”. “For example, Aristotle estimates animals according to their similarity to humans. But then the male sex alone gives the standard, and the woman appears as a mutilation of the man. And again the free Greek gives the standard, and the slave appears as a born slave, inferiorly created by nature. There it cannot be surprised if there are also inferior numbers, inferior veins, inferior dimensions; in front is more valuable than behind, above is more valuable than below” (Fritz Mauthner). In its argumentation, natural law proceeds in three steps, all of which, without exception, are highly problematic: Setting a purpose, attaching a value and deriving a moral imperative. The Thomists want to equate these individual steps as quickly as possible and not see them differentiated, which makes the whole thing only extremely vague for a non-natural lawyer. Even the first step of accepting a purpose in nature is not an easy one. The move from purposes to comparative value judgements is even more problematic. Also because of what Schopenhauer has to say about values in general: “Every worth is a comparative quantity, and it stands moreover in a double relation: first, it is relative, in that it is for someone, and secondly, it is comparative, in that it is in comparison with something else according to which it is evaluated. Displaced from these two relations, the concept worth loses all sense and meaning.” (ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER: The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics – Prize essay on the basis of morals) The quality standards of Aristoteles, for example, are completely unreflected. He started from an unquestioned, time-related anthropology, probably also from his proud feeling to be a free Greek man and thinker and from social necessities in his polis (Aquinas in addition also considered Christian values). One could say, however, that the slightly deviant is the good, the discreet deviator (like Aristotle himself was one with regard to Plato or the religious custom of his polis) is to be taken as yardstick of the good. For without deviations there was and is no progress. In the end the value assessment in one way or another is a purely subjective process, shaped by prevailing ideologies, religions, philosophies, the state of the sciences, in short the spirit of the times, and shaped by the evolving nature of man and finally by the individual character, that is, the very special, coincidental peculiarity of a single person. The most problematic, however, is the leap from comparative value judgements to non-comparative should judgements (one could perhaps at best derive recommendations from value judgements). One cannot infer from a purpose which I consider to be good and which I merely suspect in nature (is) a commandment which is valid for all human beings (ought), because then one falls more than ever victim to the naturalistic fallacy. My conclusion: In natural law there is clearly a false objectivity.
    The Thomistic ethics of natural law is no longer appropriate to the times and their doctrines are no longer perceived as weighty. Personally, I will never be able to morally condemn lived out homosexuality and suicide (suicidal martyrdom, however, is completely fine for natural law), two great sins in this ethic (and this “never” cannot be emphasized enough), because I cannot at all see and feel the absolute reprehensibility attributed to them by natural law scholars. Whoever is a natural lawyer, however, must hold up the condemnation in an obtrusive manner and thus very probably isolate himself socially.

    1. On the point about Emmett Barcalow: it has of course natural law relevance.

      Small postscript:
      It seems so easy to conceal natural law with a wafer-thin cultural veil, which does not speak in favour of this theory.
      Intersexuals should be able to satisfy themselves. There is nothing wrong with enjoyment. If they have that right, then everyone should have it.

    2. Appendices:

      On the subject of the recognizability of natural law: Jacques Maritain (important philosopher of Thomistic existential philosophy) says that one simply knows deep within oneself (mystically intuitive) what natural law is, which makes it questionable.

      The idea of man is dropped by the assumption of evolution. We then have only human individuals. Homosexuals can no longer be compared to a timeless form of man that does not include homosexuality. The homosexual simply does what corresponds to his nature and fails evolutionarily. However, this would only be a neutral and non-judgmental observation, although the verb failure is preloaded in terms of value.

      („For example, he could assume that homosexuality and homosexual inclinations were indeed ‘unnatural ‘ and the consequence of sin or distortion. To many today this is not so clear; whatever the complex determinants of homosexuality might be, a homosexual predisposition is often considered to be the ‘nature’ o f some. Further, non-procreative, nocturnal emissions of semen, infertility at certain point s in the menstrual cycle, and abortions in the form of non-implantations or miscarriages, all happen spontaneously and frequently and thus might be regarded as ‘natural’. The very notion of ‘the natural ‘ in this area of sexuality seems to encourage value judgements from its supposedly neutral users. Aquinas was no exception.“) (Robin Gill – A Textbook of Christian Ethics)

      On the subject of inner purpose (attitude) and external meansin actions: calendar contraception (rhythm-method) and condom use include: different external means, but an identical attitude. In comparison: In a “normal” suicide and suicidal martyrdom there is a different attitude, but identical external means of suicide. There is an imbalance here. The suspicion of arbitrariness arises in relation to the ethical weighting of attitude and the pursuit of an external order of things.

      My example with demons and devils does not work, because on the one hand there is no essential evil in Thomism, on the other hand demons and devils are fallen angels in Christianity, who permanently pervert their good nature. One could perhaps save the example by mentioning extra-terrestrial beings instead of demons and devils.

      Another alternative assessment of sexuality in natural law: Sex as a natural ability could be compared to a Swiss army knife. This has many primary functions. For example, there is a knife, say a bread knife. There is a magnifying glass for visual enlargement and a bottle opener. When one function is activated, it doesn’t have to be the same for the other functions. I don’t need a bottle opener to cut bread. In the sexuality it might be similar: „Even if it is conceded that procreation is the obvious function of sexuality, it is far from clear that it should be the only, or the indispensable, function of human sexuality.“ (Robin Gill – A Textbook of Christian Ethics)

      If sexual activity is understood as a coherent process, then in fact there cannot be more than one primary purpose at the same time. For a better understanding we can compare the human being with a cube and the surface of the cube with the number 6 on it would stand for sexual activity. Different primary purposes should be represented by different colors on that side of the cube. Reproduction will be green, all means are also green, so that the whole surface must be green, which means that the, represented in green, must not be fragmented by applying other colours. If then one should apply another color completely, like red for a love display, whereby the reproduction, if it is desired as a means, must also be colored red.

      The problem of is-ought can also be summed up in this way: „to derive an exclusive moral prescription from an empirical observation of function was seemingly to commit a category error.“ (Robin Gill – A Textbook of Christian Ethics)

      Various scenarios that could make natural law questionable:
      Scenario 1 (all following scenarios deal with the morality of the man independent of Christian self-understanding):
      Woman 1 just took the pill. Woman 2 is completely sterile through no fault of her own (complete sterility was impossible to detect at Aquinas’ time). The man knows about the impossibility of fertilization in both women, but he does not know for sure whether woman 2 really became sterile without her fault. He will never be able to know all this one hundred percent. He then gets involved in sex with them out of love. But sex with woman 1 and sex with woman 2 lead to the same result: procreation is impossible in principle, i.e. the man has deliberately let the semen come out in such a way that procreation cannot follow. He did not manipulate his own reproductive ability. But he deliberately perverted the sexual process as a whole. Preliminary thesis: If sex with woman 2 is allowed, then he must also be allowed with woman 1. Because: Where is the difference in relation to the sex process as a whole? Morally it should depend on the fact that I pervert the process as a whole and not how I do it in detail. Perversion itself, like murder itself, is evil. And not how I pervert or how I murder. At least I can’t see the difference.
      Scenario 2:
      Woman 1 is completely sterile by no fault of her own. Woman 2 does not use anything that could somehow prevent pregnancy. Woman 3 is using calendar contraception. The man has sex with the three women (thought in each case in a different parallel universe). With woman 2 he puts a condom on before. Here the man perverts his reproductive organ, which also results in perverting the sex process in its entirety, as in the first scenario with woman 1 and also with woman 2. When having sex with woman 1 in the second scenario, the man sees the woman’s non-existent reproductive capacity as a kind of permanent birth control device. Here Feser says: the man must fulfil 2 criteria in order to have sex: Love must be there and he must pretend that reproduction is possible. The duty to have an inner disposition, or the duty to do as if are artificially incorporated into natural law. These duties have nothing to do with the general perverted faculty argument. They are simply thrown in from the side without having a proper place in the ethical system. One can assert a lot. But how are these obligations deduced, justified and systematically located? For the time being, we assume that they are completely unfounded and have no justification and are therefore pure inventions that can be ignored. Nor do they seem to occur in Aquinas.
      No condom is used with woman 3 because she is allergic to it, but the probability of fertilisation due to calendar contraception is just as low.
      What follows from everything: There is no difference between having sex with woman 1, woman 2 and woman 3. Internally the man does not want children in all cases, externally he goes into a process which will never reach his goal (a pregnancy with woman 2 and 3 has however still a small probability, differently than with woman 1). If the preliminary thesis from scenario 1 is correct, i.e. the woman can use contraceptives on her own without the man getting into moral difficulties, why can’t the man use them himself? Otherwise there would have been a moral and legal asymmetry between the man and the woman.
      In all three cases, the man is deliberately involved in a process where achieving the goal is impossible or very unlikely. In all cases, the whole process is perverted. Because: If I understand the ultimate goal of sex (fertilization) as an absolute moral imperative, I should not consciously make the achievement of that ultimate goal less likely.
      What do these examples tell us? There are many basic prerequisites in natural law whose justification I do not yet know. Such as:
      the sudden obligation to an inner inclination (here love) in a certain context (sterility). Apart from the fact that context instantly plays a role, where could such a duty arise outside of sexuality? If I am not capable of love at all, does another obligation to a different inner disposition strike me?
      Commitment to doing as if (despite loss and incompleteness of functions, so that certain causes of purpose no longer exist). I would like to have examples outside the realm of sex. Breast feeding of infants, for example. If there are no milk glands, then the woman does not have to pretend. This would be of no use to the baby. Someone without legs does not have to fake walking with legs.
      Feser apparently imagines that during sex the platonic idea of sex would float over you and that you should get as close as possible to it. How should a completely blind person be able to approach the idea of seeing? He can only abandon this idea completely in order to move on to another idea of capturing the outside world, such as sound-orientation.
      The thesis that artefacts or other natural things (such as condoms or condoms in the form of intestines) can never be natural, although animals also use natural things as tools or even produce primitive artefacts. To what extent is the use of calendar contraception more natural than that of caoutchouc condoms?
      If these basic prerequisites (especially the first 4) are poorly justified, the scope of natural law in the field of sexuality no longer seems plausible.

    3. I had mentioned the aspect of shaving hair and the conflict with natural law. Here you can also find some information: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/tippling/2017/07/22/beards-perverted-faculty-argument/

    4. The sexual faculty, in short sexuality, has a complex natural structure in humans (many organs such as the skin are involved, so are non verbal communications and many other factors). To say that this structure has only one function, reproduction, seems to be very far-fetched, especially since this is not the case with animals. Even if this were to be the case with them, we should not be worried, because we are not animals, but humans who can set their own goals.
      If the much-vaunted teleology of sexuality is ultimately to be found only in the individual sperm, then one must become puzzled, because the nature or physiology or anatomy of man seems to be aimed at thwarting the goal of most sperm.

    5. If the efficient causes of action are completely absorbed in final causes, so that we basically only have final causes, then natural law will indeed get into difficulties. Essential or accidental chains of causes would be pure chains of final causes. And Aristotelian final causes are always directed at the good in terms of value, which good can then no longer be undermined by neutral efficient causes, because these no longer exist as such. If the final determinations are completely exhaustive (in the world) (so no efficient determinations), the term of final causes is redundant because there is nothing inexpedient. Then there are no efficient causes that are not final causes at the same time, because their effect is precisely what is being aimed at, which would include abnormalities.

      If we accept the theory of evolution, we can imagine many alternative forms of sexuality that could have been or could come, even if it were highly unlikely. For example, men ejaculate on the floor in the hope that a women will sit on the ejaculate and become pregnant. We can also imagine organs shifting in function. The sexual organs would then perhaps be atrophied in their procreative function, but still fulfill a social function of shared sensual pleasure. Procreation will still happen through a new organ, perhaps on the hairs that have to be entangled with those of another person. It is reported that kissing was also originally a kind of feeding, a mouth-to-mouth feeding of the animal. Evolution in the context of natural law would allow us to try something new. „Anything that is physically possible may well have been intended by the designer of the universe, who made it possible. Nature makes possible both procreation and other uses of the sexual faculties, and even if nature was created for a purpose, there is no way to infer from nature itself which of these was intended or whether that intent ought to be binding on us.“ (Andrew Koppelman – The Gay Rights Question. Chapter 4 Why discriminate)

      I suspect that the defenders of the pervert faculty argument secretly consider that the sexual and generative faculties of humans are absolutely exclusive and incomparable to anything else. Thus, each objection is pushed aside by the defenders of the perverted faculty argument. That’s my estimation. But then one could accuse them of dogmatism. Sometimes I also have the feeling that in some controversial cases the natural law advocates tacitly resort to an ethical particularism (which they do not actually desire, they certainly want to have general principles).

      One will not be able to change the mind of a Thomist, because the whole teleological matter with humans is very complex, so that it only amounts to one thing: He says so, but I say no, it’s different, it’s like this. The Thomist again says no and so on. You can say from every part of the body down to the parts of a cell that it has an end and a means, that it is an end and a means. And each part I can subordinate to a higher organic order. The chewing function can be subordinated to the digestive function and the digestive function to the self-preservation function, which in turn can be subordinated to the holiness function. If I pretend to chew something, and if I grind my teeth together, I would pervert the chewing function, but maybe not the digestive function, but maybe I would perform the muscle function in my mouth and jaw correctly and not actually do anything wrong. It would be trivial to say that the ability to chew would be directed to chew, the ability to procreate to procreate, the ability to see to see. I could say the ejaculation ability is geared towards ejaculation and that’s about it. Or the ability of the penis to erect is directed at erection. Here you can build countless hierarchies up to the very top, to the human being as a whole. I can scratch myself and destroy countless teleological skin cells, all no problem because my well-being has justified it. The hierarchical system allows you to pervert the subordinate element in favor of the higher one. I’d say that the generative faculty is subordinate to the sexual faculty. Human sexuality is very complex, many organs, especially the skin with its many erogenous zones, many abilities and feelings, sensations and also interpersonal communication belong to it. To read only one main function out of it is very simplistic. If a partial activation of this sexual complex takes place, and one would say: Now one must try to conceive a child, it would be very implausible.

      It seems to me that much of Feser’s argument depends on his distinction between “contrary to” and “different from” (other than), which I haven’t yet found quite clear. This distinction is missing in Grisez, and if it is not tenable, then we have to agree with Grisez in many ways. In Feser’s Last Superstition, the distinction, in my opinion, was kept vague. In order to make the distinction more understandable, one would need to describe it better and more clearly using other words and also compare two faculties with each other, and say in advance which definitive functions they have (regardless of whether one can argue about these). “Other than”, in my opinion, can only have three meanings. Either it refers to another function of a faculty that has not been mentioned before. Or it refers to another way (other means) and not to the conventional or natural one to achieve the goal of the function. Or one understands by it the inappropriate and perverted activation of a faculty, which leaves however no damage to the function, the faculty or the whole human organism (this would then be a matter of interpretation). In the latter case, the function does not achieve its goal because the faculty has been perverted. In any case, these proposed meanings must be related to a deliberately activated faculty, otherwise “other than” would be a meaningless concept. When I consciously activate an faculty, there is only one either-or: Either I try to achieve the goal of its function to the best of my knowledge and conscience, or I do not allow the goal to be achieved. As soon as I act in some way, I inevitably use natural faculties and organs that I have. All organs and faculties have functions, otherwise they would not be organs and faculties. Now I can respect these functions or not, which means I may or may not help these functions achieve their goal. If I do not know of any function, of any faculty, of any corresponding goal, then I do nothing that can somehow be understood as “other than”. “Contrary to” can only mean perverting a natural faculty, i.e. deliberately preventing it from achieving the goal of its function. This would mean total damage if the third definition of “other than” came into force. One could perhaps classify the “contrary to” possibilities in this way. Serious transgressions: I deliberately pervert a natural process into which I have deliberately entered that takes place only voluntarily and willfully. Minor offences: I deliberately pervert a natural process that takes place on an ongoing and involuntary basis. However, this distinction would not be reasonable, as an artificial stopping of the heartbeat would only be a minor matter and the chewing of pure caoutchouc gum would be a major matter. In the end, one cannot avoid to arbitrarily evaluate each human function individually and classify it according to importance.

      The Catholic Church allows so-called natural birth control methods, such as the temperature method, calendar method, checking the consistency of the cervical mucus, perhaps also hormone level measurement. Together they are just as effective as using condoms. I don’t understand the ban here and the permission there at all. If you want to become platonic now, you can say that they all participate in the idea of birth control without exception. To call some natural and others unnatural is not quite convincing. Behind the so-called natural means there is a whole artificial research apparatus and while using them one has to resort to artefacts like computers, calendars, pens for documentation, otherwise they are ineffective. Condoms are made of natural substances, perhaps there are also natural substances that make fertilization unlikely in women. The only difference consists in an insignificant outside or inside of the body. The Church would also not approve of all people beginning to celebrate orgies with natural birth control means only. The telos of a natural faculty is said to be a moral precept when that faculty is activated. It’s a bit strange then to allow the probability of reaching the telos to be extremely reduced before or as soon as you activate the natural ability. It is like when I want to help a seriously injured person lying on the ground, but intentionally make the help very unlikely. Or, like making a promise only when the commitment can hardly be kept because of previously arranged things. Discussion about this complex of topics and whether the church accepts natural contraception at all can be found in this book: John T. Noonan, Jr. – Contraception

      According to the socio-biologist Robert Trivers (Robert Trivers – The Logic of Lying), man has an innate ability to lie to himself in order to make his lie more credible to others. For this he has good empirical reasons. Does the Church want to deny that or only consider that which does not please her as belonging to sin?

      „One line of defense for Aquinas’ “generative type” requirement is that sex acts that involve either homosexuality, heterosexual sodomy, or which use contraception, frustrate the purpose of the sex organs, which is reproductive. This argument, often called the “perverted faculty argument,” is perhaps implicit in Aquinas. It has, however, come under sharp attack. For a well-constructed example of this, see Paul J. Weithman, Natural Law, Morality, and Sexual Complementarity, in SEX, PREFERENCE, AND FAMILY: ESSAYS ON LAW AND NATURE 227 (David M. Estlund
      and Martha C. Nussbaum, ed., 1997). The best recent defenders of a Thomistic natural law approach are attempting to move beyond it. See, e.g., JOHN FINNIS, NATURAL LAW AND NATURAL RIGHTS 48 (1979) (characterizing the “perverted faculty argument” as “ridiculous”); ROBERT GEORGE, IN DEFENSE OF NATURAL LAW (1999) (dismissing the “perverted faculty argument”).“ (footnote 17 Brent L. Pickett – Natural Law and the Regulation of Sexuality. A Critique)

      Why the ethics of natural law do not fit with the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount: „It might seem that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, was similarly erecting a fence around morality. For he introduces his most extreme demands: “Till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. . . . Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Then Jesus goes on to say that it is not enough not to kill: “Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to hell fire.” It is not sufficient not to commit adultery, nor— the omission of any reference to the Tenth Commandment is surprising— not to covet one’s neighbor’s wife, but “every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away.” ( We shall return to this saying later in this chapter.) On reflection, the old morality is not protected but undermined, not extended but dissolved; and no new morality is put in its place. Where murder is not considered importantly different from calling a man a fool, nor adultery from a lustful look, the very basis of morality is denied: the crucial distinction between impulse and action. If one is unfortunate enough to have the impulse, no reason is left for not acting on it.“ (Walter A. Kaufmann – The Faith of a Heretic)

      „Let’s posit a perfect, Catholic married couple who live their life according to natural law in every respect. They never use contraception and never engage in any sexual act that does not result in the penis depositing semen in a vagina. Assume further that both are fertile. If the woman conceives, then it must follow that the point of depositing semen in the vagina is literally irrelevant for the following nine months or so. Exclusively procreative sex, in other words, naturally necessitates continual nonprocreative sex. If the husband were to refrain from any sexual activity in those nine months, to avoid activity “contrary” to nature, he wouldn’t stop producing sperm. Even if he did not masturbate, his body would emit sperm in nocturnal emissions, triggered by erotic desire programmed into his brain. In other words, his body itself would spontaneously and without any intention on his part act in a way that is “contrary” to the natural law. It’s hard to see how such a phenomenon can be deemed “contrary” to any reasonable account of “nature.” In fact, any reasonable account of human sexuality, observed by any rational person, would conclude that, even under the strictest of Catholic moral teachings, most sexual activity between a man and wife must necessarily be nonprocreative. A man’s sex drive does not disappear the moment his wife becomes pregnant, and neither does his wife’s. Put it another way: If the purpose of the penis was solely procreation with one monogamous female partner, as the natural law philosophers insist, it would surely have been designed very differently. It would ejaculate much more rarely and be attuned to another human’s menstrual and reproductive cycle. To take this thought experiment still further, it might even be designed only to ejaculate by some mechanism within the vagina and by no other means. In fact, of course, the male sexual organs produce an almost infinite number of sperm, an infinitesimal amount of which will ever become another human life. It seems odd that when a phenomenon occurs to one sperm out of millions, the one should be seen as the rule and the millions the exception. Moreover, the penis can be stimulated by almost any other physical object, and at its sexual peak, may ejaculate countless sperm several times a day. Why would this be a fact of our physical nature if the sole purpose of a penis is to procreate with one other human being? These are not arguments. They are facts. If nature implies a purpose, then the purpose of the male sexual organs posited by natural law is obviously divorced from its actual, empirically observed function.“ (Andrew Sullivan – The Conservative Soul)

      „The pleasures in sexual love having, for Thomas, no value whatsoever, he ascribed to sexuality a purely instrumental good, consistent with God’s larger purposes for humankind: namely, procreation, but procreation linked to the kinds of care and nurture of the young of the human species required for their proper development. Marriage was the only acceptable form of such procreative unions for completely consequentialist reasons: Only an indivisible marital union reasonably secured the kind of long-standing relationship between a man and a woman consistent with appropriate kinds of care. Single-parent motherhood would not be justified because, as Thomas read the facts of gender difference: “a woman alone is not adequate to this task; rather this demands the work of a husband, in whom reason is more developed for giving instruction and strength is more available for giving punishment.” Monogamy between a man and a woman was also required for comparable consequentialist reasons. Men would have no incentive to commit
      themselves to a long-standing relationship to a woman “if there were several males for one female.” And while several females with one man would satisfy this requirement, it would frustrate the desires of women, as of men, shared by animals and humans, to have an unimpeded liberty of access to a sexual partner. Finally, monogamous relationships were preferred for a further consequentialist reason: “friendship consists in an equality,” and polygamy led, as Thomas argued experience demonstrated, to a situation where “the friendship of wife for husband would not be free, but somewhat servile.” For Thomas, such consequentialist arguments are the most reasonable way, assuming Aristotelian science and ethics, to construe what the teleological aims of a just God are for us. It would violate the whole tenor and spirit of Thomas’s rigorously scientific and philosophical argument to reverse the intellectual order of the argument, making a fixed sectarian conception of teleology the premise of the argument independent of good arguments of science and philosophy.“ (Nicholas Bamforth, David A. J. Richards – PATRIARCHAL RELIGION, SEXUALITY, AND GENDER)

      „What was wholly new in Thomas’s interpretation of Aristotelian perfectionism was his argument that the pleasures of the body (food and especially sex) were distractions, indeed impediments to the perfectionist end in itself.Thomas took from Augustine’s interpretation of the Fall a view of our sexuality that, to the extent that it was not rigidly in service of procreation, was a shameful loss of control, the mark on our flawed natures left by original sin (before the fall, Augustine argued, that our sexuality was under the control of our rational procreational wills, men having erections and emissions at will when needed to procreate; as some men wiggle their ears at will, so before the Fall men had erections and emissions at will).“ (Nicholas Bamforth, David A. J. Richards – PATRIARCHAL RELIGION, SEXUALITY, AND GENDER)

      „Within the framework of his naturalistic understanding of science and of ethics, Thomas was clearly reasoning in a consequentialist fashion; indeed, he seems to have been just as concerned with overall consequences as later thinkers such as Bentham. Nonetheless, it is also abundantly clear that some of Thomas’s substantive positions – in particular, his views concerning gender, sexuality, and religious dissent – are simply anachronistic when viewed from a modern naturalistic standpoint using, as Thomas’s methodology demands, the best contemporary forms of knowledge.“ (Nicholas Bamforth, David A. J. Richards – PATRIARCHAL RELIGION, SEXUALITY, AND GENDER)

      1. I personally only tend to a certain ethic (if at all, since I actually deny freedom of will) of a German philosopher. I found an English review of his ethics. Otherwise I am an advocate of a virtue ethic that is beyond good and evil. Bestiality would therefore only be bad in the sense of making unhappy, but not morally evil or morally bad. But now to Gerold Prauss’ quasi-kantian ethics:

        Gerold Prauss: Die Welt und Wir, Bd II-2: Subjekt und Objekt in der Praxis. Die Grenzen einer Absicht. Stuttgart: Metzler 2005, 551 pages. ISBN 978-3-476-01743-7. Prauss’ work defends an original transcendental (meta-Kantian) moral theory that claims to overcome the inner perplexities of Kantian ethics and to provide us with a definite transcendental argument against utilitarianism. Prauss’ project is, in reality, much broader, but we will restrict ourselves to addressing the questions related to practical philosophy.

        The author draws inspiration from an extremely challenging idea, according to which we should abandon the Kantian triple distinction between actions ‘from duty’, ‘contrary to duty’, and ‘according to duty’, and substitute for it another triple schema which, whilst formulated in Kantian terms, has not been acknowledged as such by Kant, namely the schema: ‘only as a means’, ‘not “only” as a means but “also” as an end in itself’, and ‘not only “also” as an end in itself, but “only” as an end in itself’. Needless to say, the brilliance of this original reconstruction is principally owed to the introduction of this third pure alternative that Kant, and even the whole Kantian literature, has neglected.
        As a matter of fact, it is more or less eagerly conceded that the Kantian distinction between actions ‘from duty’, ‘contrary to duty’, and ‘according to duty’ is a puzzling one. However, Prauss’ analysis is much more elegant and resolute (699ff.). The terms ‘from’, ‘according to’ and ‘contrary to’ are disapproved of to the extent that they are formally-logically dependent upon what follows them, that is, upon the notion of duty; furthermore, they are not mutually exclusive since, for example, an action which is not contrary to duty might be either ‘according to’ or ‘from’ duty. The apogee of these perplexities is that the categorical imperative of humanity will equate morality and right, by grounding both of these realms on the obligation to “use humanity […] always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means” (Groundwork, 4: 429). Consequently, Prauss is entitled to state: “to confuse morality for right is a catastrophe” (707)!
        Instead, the author advocates that we should stop encountering morality and right from the perspective of the actor/Behandelndes that Kant cannot escape because he fails to realize that the notion of an end in itself admits of a much more fertile approach once encountered from the objective perspective, namely, from the perspective of the patient/Behandelte. Thus, Prauss advances his aforementioned triple schema. We should grant to Prauss that this choice has evident advantages. Firstly, the introductory terms (‘only’, ‘not only, but also’, ‘not only also, but’) are independent from their complements; secondly, any forth alternative is logically impossible; thirdly, the negation of every alternative coincides with just one of the two others, assuming that we understand them within a process of a double progressive negation. The very case of an action that handles another person ‘only as an end in himself’ is then meant to exclusively define what morality is about; by contrast, the order of right emerges once we encounter other persons at the same time as means and as ends in themselves. These two real practical alternatives describe the difference between moral good and right (morally and rightly good), whence the negative alternative of handling someone ‘only as a means’ mirrors what is morally and rightly evil.
        Prauss proceeds by dealing with the exclusively moral alternative, that is, with an action that handles other persons only as ends in themselves. It proves to be the case that this action, and hence the order of morality in general, is conditioned by a very peculiar situation: a claim to morality is grounded only “when the person handled is precisely not in a position to help himself and as long as he remains in this position” (711). “This self-help represents then the decisive criterion” in order for the realms of right and morality to be distinguished from one another and, consequently, this very distinction depends upon the emergence of such a particular case (711f., note). The rationale of the argument suggests that whoever cannot assure his own life cannot therefore represent a means for our subjective purposes (1117f.). In the face of this admirable reconstruction of Kantian ethics, let us formulate a number of questions with the purpose of bringing to light the implications of Prauss’ claims:
        1. Morality emerges as a relation between an actor (able to help himself and others) and a person in need or, according to the Samaritan example, a “verwundetes Subjekt” (1111f.). Thus, Prauss is obliged to subscribe to two further claims: in addition to the claim that there is no morality possible between persons who are not in need, there is no morality possible between persons in need, since they have nothing to offer or, in the terms that the author will later introduce, they can give no life (not even to themselves). Hence, morality is conditioned by situations that are exclusively restricted to interpersonal relations between non-injured and injured persons. In addition thereto, if subjects in need cannot give life at all, neither to themselves nor to other human beings, they are inevitably excluded from the realm of right. In fact, their very condition deprives them of the possibility to execute actions respecting other persons not only as means but also as ends in themselves.
        2. Let us return to the strong claim according to which “there is to be found or to be invented no example of an action which might be rightly evil without being morally evil” and vice-versa (1117). In fact, the author himself has recently (in a conference held in Freiburg, under the title “Moral und Recht im Staat nach Kant”) mitigated this thesis, by explaining that the particular situations on the basis of which we differentiate morality from right should also been taken into consideration in order for moral evil and evil in the realm of right to be mutually distinguished. This emendation given, locating evil within the actions themselves is tantamount to both escaping any internalization of moral obligations and endowing morality with the necessitation we ascribe to the order of right: when we do not help someone in need, we do not solely prove to be non-meritorious but we commit an evil, whatever our maxims might be. From this point of view, Prauss’ proposal should be welcomed by those who acknowledge (without, however, supplying us with a convincing reformulation) that the duties of virtue should not be regarded as a kind of moral luxury we are allowed to neglect.
        Nevertheless, the whole argument cannot be concluded until Prauss elucidates the deep structure with which ends in themselves are endowed. Indeed, the author maintains that Kant overlooks the aforementioned third possibility of pure moral actions to the extent that he fails to illuminate what an end in itself consists in. In this respect, Prauss advances a brilliant reading of the way in which the Groundwork introduces the concept of ends within the context of the categorical imperative of humanity (776ff.). This Kantian attempt, designated to accomplish a deduction of the moral law, will fall dramatically short of its aims, insofar as the notion of ends remains forever obscure. Prauss points out a number of further perplexities: Kant does not explain why human beings are identified with ends in themselves, nor does he seem to realize that an objective end in itself is a contradiction in terms (insofar as practical ends acquire the status of an end thanks to the subject who adheres to them). In addition, Kant appears to shift from a first unsound concept of objectivity to a second concept that proves to be valid insofar as, this time, objectivity expressly presupposes intersubjectivity. Finally, the most dramatic gesture lies in the fact that Kant will immediately abandon his project in order to accomplish a new deduction of the moral law, a deduction which, by appealing to Achtung, proves to be condemned to failure. Consequently, Prauss is justified in maintaining that the Third Section of the Groundwork is already a part of the project elaborated in the Critique of Practical Reason, wherein Kant totally disregards the eventual grounding role with which the concept of ends might be charged (793).
        On the basis of this meticulous analysis, Prauss reconstructs the notion of ends in a long argument that we might reformulate as follows: Human will is not auto-referential but by essence directed to the success (and not to the failure) of the actions in which it is implicated. Due to this intentionality, good and evil are attributes we ascribe to actions, insofar as they respect the normativity (whatever its kind might be) that the agent has adopted and thereby freely ‘incorporated’ as his actual incentive (759). Every kind of normativity presupposes a claim raised by the Behandelte (that is, stemming from the objective side of action) and a kind of Befolgung (that is, the readiness of the agent to act according to the principles he has subscribed to). The peculiarity of the ought (Sollen) within the order of morality and right lies in a peculiar mutual dependance: “Gerade darin ist ein Wollen Sollen, dass es als ein freiheitliches Wollen ein bedingtes durch ein notwendiges Müssen ist und umgekehrt gerade ist ein Müssen Sollen, dass es als ein notwendiges Müssen ein bedingtes durch ein freiheitliches Wollen ist” (768f.).
        Freedom bears practical relevance only insofar as it represents the object of conscience: normativity presupposes the knowledge of freedom, not just freedom itself (799). However, this factual knowledge is not sufficient to explain why human beings are regarded as ends in themselves. Thus, a second level of self-recognition is required, namely a level grounded upon a further fact: upon the fact that human beings, bestowed as they are with Vernunft and not simply with Verstand, achieve a thematization of their conscience of freedom (840). Hence, Vernunft makes possible a self-knowledge, i.e. a self-recognition, of human beings as free creators of ends, namely, as self-creators (817). It follows that the first kind of causality recognized by a human being bestowed with Vernunft is free causality as the vehicle of his selfrealization. It is only afterwards that a human being recognizes that other beings might also operate as causes, either as natural causes or even as free animals and human subjects. Prauss’ conclusion thus leaves no mystery: “free causality constitutes from the outset the necessary precondition of natural causality” (865).
        The synthesis of freedom (self-realizing will) and necessity (the claims raised by others), conditioned as it is by this mutual dependence of the two aforementioned facts upon one another, admits of three modalities: ‘to be only as a means’, ‘to be not only as a means but also as an end in itself’, and ‘to be not only also as an end, but only as an end in itself’. If one replaces being with will-to-live, he easily concludes that this synthesis allows for three modalities of action: “only life-to-take”, “not only life-to-take but also life-to-give”, and “only life-to-give” (1099). And if one further substitutes time for life (by which Prauss means Geistesleben), he will realize why these three modalities are not susceptible to any quantitative approach, since life-time can neither be augmented nor be re-gained and exchanged in any possible way, assuming that time is adequately apprehended as life-time (it would not be prudent to present within the confines of our text Prauss’ theory of time, even if it further illuminates the aforementioned concepts). Precisely because lifetime resists any quantitative approach, good and evil are categories proper to morality and right; that is to say, they are independent of any reference to goals evaluated according to the categories of utility. Hence, to ground morality and right on mere facts by emphasizing their formal (transcendental) implications is tantamount to resisting utilitarianism. Within transcendental philosophy, self-realization and inter-personality (although they represent mere facts and, qua facts, they resist any eventual reduction to further grounds) constitute both the ontological ground and the “Sinn of morality and right” (1089).
        Morality and right are not about how to manage our internal transcendental freedom, as many current Kant scholars tend to advocate. They represent a game that we are factually obliged to play, given the facts of self-knowledge and interpersonality; good and evil are attributes assigned to actions that directly or indirectly concern other human beings and are evaluated in light of their impact upon the lifetime of these human beings and, hence, morality and right do not dwell within our internal maxims or intentions. We hope our remarks are sufficient to suggest that Prauss’ theory will be an enduring contribution to Kantian research and to post-Kantian moral theory. Compelling simply in itself, his work also advances plenty of separate insightful arguments to which one might consent, without necessarily endorsing his entire complex project.

        Pavlos Kontos, Patras

      2. These are my last remarks and quotations on Thomism.

        If Thomists accept evolution, then hardly the version of Dawkins, namely that of gradualism. They should rather accept Gould’s version. But nevertheless, according to Aristotelian principles, no “eternal” species can give birth to another “eternal” one. That is an Aristotelian impossibility. Therefore, the Thomists might have to be hidden creationists who see divine creations in the course of evolution.

        What Grisez notes here can be applied to many other cases: „[A]s soon as there is any good reason to induce vomiting, no objection is made to doing so. For example, even a small danger that one has consumed poison or a moderate discomfort which may be relieved by vomiting are sufficient justifications for inducing it.“ And this shows, according to Grisez, that it is not the perversion itself that we morally reject. But the perverted faculty argument presupposes that a perversion of a faculty is morally (intrinsically) wrong and must be felt as immoral, otherwise the name of the argument no longer makes sense. A couple who are currently sleeping together and are suddenly disturbed by their screaming baby in the next room will of course immediately go to their baby and end their sexual intercourse. Maybe the man was only able to let his semen come out on the bed sheet. The couple won’t think: “Oh boy, we just perverted our sexual faculty, hopefully the little one has something serious and doesn’t just whine.” They will not be burdened in the least by their moral conscience and nobody could blame them for anything. It seems so easy to undermine the moral heaviness which, according to the Thomists, lies in the sexual act.

        Feser claims the moon is teleologically aimed at moving around the earth. How does Feser know that? Perhaps the movement around the earth is just a resulting movement from the confrontation of several forces. Who knows? The moon may want to fly goal-directed to earth, but is then repelled by an electromagnetic force. Or the moon wants to leave its orbit completely by centrifugal force and is simply held back by gravity from the earth. Feser’s making it too easy here. Why shouldn’t two teleological forces confront each other so that a resulting and coerced movement emerges that is not actually aspired to by both forces? Feser imagines the universe to be too harmonious, whereby the orbits of moons and planets are never perfect circles or no circles at all. Feser likes to talk about matches that aim at fire when he talks about teleology. That’s a bad example, because it’s an artifact that’s always purposeful. If we look at the match only materially and naturally, then we have a chemical composition that is hardly specifically fire-orientated, at any rate no more than many other substances. Then there is another example of, so I believe, fragile glass, which allegedly has the telos of breaking, that is, which is directed towards breaking. As far as I know, this can only be said of substances that decay radioactively. But not of glass or any other material that can break quickly. Feser sees the property of being able to break quickly in an absolute way, although he should only see it from a relative point of view. The easily fragile breaks only because of the external influences, which I could imagine to be so weak, that the fragile no longer appears fragile, but hard as iron. In a certain context, titanium can be fragile as well. Feser is unlikely to convince anyone of the benefits of teleology in the inorganic field. People simply accept the characteristic chemical elements that exist, and they accept that in certain circumstances they act in their own way because they are as they are. The chemical elements simply have no overarching goals that could be empirically identified. If life has arisen from chemical compounds, that view will not change. Teleological categories must be treated more like negative variables, which are provisional as a working hypothesis. These categories should only be handled with extreme caution. The objections against teleology are, that teleological explanations reverse the orthodox order of cause and effect, that teleological explanations involve the illicit attribution of human mental characteristics to things other than human beings, and that accepting teleological explanations would bring scientific research to a halt, at least in some fields. The objections have definitely some merit.

        Nietzsche on a supposedly teleological world: „Let us beware. – Let us beware of thinking that the world is a living being. Where would it stretch? What would it feed on? How could it grow and procreate? After all, we know roughly what the organic is; are we then supposed to reinterpret what is inexpressibly derivative, late, rare, accidental, which we perceive only on the crust of the earth, as something essential, common, and eternal, as those people do who call the universe an organism? This nauseates me. Let us beware even of believing that the universe is a machine; it is certainly not constructed to one end, and the word ‘machine’ pays it far too high an honour. Let us beware of assuming in general and everywhere anything as elegant as the cyclical movements of our neighbouring stars; even a glance at the Milky Way raises doubts whether there are not much coarser and more contradictory movements there, as well as stars with eternally linear paths, etc. The astral order in which we live is an exception; this order and the considerable duration that is conditioned by it have again made possible the exception of exceptions: the development of the organic. The total character of the world, by contrast, is for all eternity chaos, not in the sense of a lack of necessity but of a lack of order, organization, form, beauty, wisdom, and whatever else our aesthetic anthropomorphisms are called. Judged from the vantage point of our reason, the unsuccessful attempts are by far the rule; the exceptions are not the secret aim, and the whole musical mechanism repeats eternally its tune, which must never be called a melody – and ultimately even the phrase ‘unsuccessful attempt’ is already an anthropomorphism bearing a reproach. But how could we reproach or praise the universe! Let us beware of attributing to it heartlessness or unreason or their opposites: it is neither perfect, nor beautiful, nor noble, nor does it want to become any of these things; in no way does it strive to imitate man! In no way do our aesthetic and moral judgements apply to it! It also has no drive to self-preservation or any other drives; nor does it observe any laws. Let us beware of saying that there are laws in nature. There are only necessities: there is no one who commands, no one who obeys, no one who transgresses. Once you know that there are no purposes, you also know that there is no accident; for only against a world of purposes does the word ‘accident’ have a meaning. Let us beware of saying that death is opposed to life. The living is only a form of what is dead, and a very rare form. Let us beware of thinking that the world eternally creates new things. There are no eternally enduring substances; matter is as much of an error as the god of the Eleatics. But when will we be done with our caution and care? When will all these shadows of god no longer darken us? When will we have completely de-deified nature? When may we begin to naturalize humanity with a pure, newly discovered, newly redeemed nature?“ (Nietzsche, Friedrich. Nietzsche: The Gay Science)

        Essentialism and the principle of sufficient reason completely exclude freedom of will for me. I don’t even want to talk about prevision, predestination and original sin. Each essence can only act according to its essence, it cannot break through its essence without breaking itself. Edward Feser can only act like Edward Feser, who exists as a unique person, who has the essence of man and of his very specific qualities. Edward Feser will always act necessarily on the basis of his current nature and knowledge. It is always Edward Feser who thinks, chooses, decides and wants and acts, but always out of his essence. A freedom that somehow acts independently or outside of his own nature like a divine grace effect or a quantum event is not conceivable, because it would not be in our understanding a freedom that would lead to responsibility, it would have an externally determined element. Moreover, I cannot be a very specific being that has a very specific finality and at the same time have an incomprehensible indeterminate being that is completely indifferent to all possible finalities. The Thomistic conception that no potential can realize itself and thus needs something else from outside, from which it is realized, also does its part to demolish the concept of free will.

        Schopenhauer on free will: „ If we were to ask an unsophisticated person to describe that immediate consciousness which is so often regarded as that of an alleged freedom of the will, we would get something like the following answer: “I can do what I will: if I will to go to the left, I go to the left; if I will to go to the right, I go to the right. This depends entirely on my will; therefore, I am free.” Of course this assertion is entirely true and correct, only the will is already presupposed in it, for it assumes that the will has already decided. Consequently, nothing can be established about its own freedom in this manner. The assertion does not at all speak about the dependence or independence of the occurrence of the act of volition itself, but only about the effects of this act as soon as it occurs, or, to be more precise, about its unfailing manifestation as bodily action.“

        Schopenhauer: To give a specific and maximally clear explanation of the genesis of this error – which is so important for our theme – and thereby to supplement the investigation of self-consciousness presented in the previous chapter, let us think of a human being who, while standing in the street, say, might say to himself: ‘It is six o’clock in the evening, the day’s work is ended. I can now go for a walk; or I can go to the club; I can also climb the tower to see the sun going down; I can also go to the theatre; I can also visit this friend, or again that one; yes, I can even run out of the gate into the wide world and never return. All of that is solely up to me, I have total freedom over it; and yet I am doing none of that now, but am going home with just as much free will, to my wife.’ That is exactly as if water were to speak: ‘I can strike up high waves (yes! in the sea and storm), I can rush down in a hurry (yes! in the bed of a stream), I can fall down foaming and spraying (yes! in a waterfall), I can rise freely as a jet into the air (yes! in a fountain), finally I can even boil away and disappear (yes! at of heat); and yet I am doing none of all that now, but I am staying with free will calm and clear in the mirroring pond.’ Just as water can do all of that only when the determining causes to one thing or the other occur, so that human being can in no way do what he imagines he can do except under the same condition. Until the causes occur it is impossible for him: but then he must do it, just as much as the water when it is placed in the corresponding circumstances. His error, and the whole illusion that arises here from falsely interpreted self-consciousness, that he could now do all of that equally, rests, precisely considered, on the fact that in his imagination only one picture can be present at a time and excludes everything else for the moment. So if he presents to himself the motive for one of those actions proposed as possible, he will instantly feel its effect on his will, which is being solicited by it: this, according to the term of art, is called a velleitas. But now he thinks he could elevate this to a voluntas as well, i.e. carry out the proposed action; only this is illusion.

        Philipp Mainländer on free will: „It would now seem that man has the liberum arbitrium indifferentiae, i.e. that his will is free because, as we have seen, he can carry out deeds which are not at all in accordance with his character, but rather completely contrary to his nature. But this is not the case: the will is never free and everything in the world happens with necessity. Every human being has a certain character at the time when a motive approaches him, who, if the motive is sufficient, must act. The motive occurs with necessity (because each motive is always the link of a causal series dominated by necessity), and the character must follow it with necessity, because it is a certain one and the motive is sufficient. Now I set the case: the motive is sufficient for my character, but insufficient for my whole self, because my mind sets up my general well-being, as counter-motive, and this is stronger than that. Have I now acted freely because I did not yield to a motive sufficient for my character? In no way! Because my mind is by nature a certain one and its education, in any direction, happened with necessity, because I belong to this family, was born in this city, had these teachers, cultivated this contact, made these certain experiences, etc. That this spirit, which has become necessary, can give me, in the moment of temptation, a counter-motive that is stronger than all the others, does not break necessity at all. Also the cat acts against its character, under the influence of a counter motive, if it doesn’t nibble in the presence of the female cook, and yet nobody has yet granted free will to an animal. I further suggest already now that the will can be brought so far, through the realization of its true well-being, that it denies its innermost core and no longer wants life, i.e. it puts itself in complete contradiction with itself. But when he does this, does he act freely? No! For then the knowledge with necessity has merged into him and with necessity he must follow it. He cannot do otherwise, as little as the water can flow uphill. If we do therefore see a man not acting according to his known character, we are nevertheless faced with an act which had to occur just as necessarily as that of another man who only followed his inclination; for in the former case it arose from a certain will and a certain spirit capable of deliberation, both of which worked together with necessity. To infer from the deliberative capacity of the mind the freedom of the will is the greatest fallacy that can be made. In the world we only ever have to deal with necessary movements of the individual will, be they simple or resulting movements. It is not because the will in man is connected with a spirit capable of deliberation that he is free, but because of this reason he has a different movement than the animal. And this is also the focus of the entire investigation. The plant has a different movement than a gas or a liquid or a solid body, the animal a different movement than the plant, the human being a different movement than the animal. The latter is the case because in man the one-sided reason has developed into a perfect one. Through this new tool, born of the will, man overlooks the past and looks to the future: now, in any given case, his well-being in general can move him to renounce enjoyment or to endure suffering, i.e. to force him to do deeds which are not in accordance with his will. The will has not become free, but it has made an extraordinarily great gain: it has attained a new movement, a movement whose great significance we shall fully recognize below. Man is never free, then, whether or not he has within himself a principle which can enable him to act against his character; for this principle has become with necessity, belongs with necessity to his being, since it is a part of the movement inherent in him, and acts with necessity.“

        Russell, Bertrand. History of Western Philosophy : „[Aquinas] then passes on to sin, predestination, and election, on which his view is broadly that of Augustine. By mortal sin a man forfeits his last end to all eternity, and therefore eternal punishment is his due. No man can be freed rom sin except by grace, and yet the sinner is to be blamed if he is not converted. Man needs grace to persevere in good, but no one can merit divine assistance. God is not the cause of sinning, but some He leaves in sin, while others He delivers from it. As regards predestination, St Thomas seems to hold, with St Augustine, that no reason can be given why some are elected and go to heaven, while others are left reprobate and go to hell. He holds also that no man can enter heaven unless he has been baptized. This is not one of the truths that can be proved by the unaided reason; it is revealed in John iii. 5.4“

        Russell, Bertrand. History of Western Philosophy: „There is little of the true philosophic spirit in Aquinas. He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an enquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times.“

        Nietzsche on the hypermoral soul: „The revenge against the spirit and other ulterior motives of morality. – Morality – where do you suppose that it finds its most dangerous and insidious advocates?. . .There is a human being who has turned out badly, who does not have spirit enough to be able to enjoy it and just enough education to know this; bored, weary, a self-despiser; wealthy through inheritance, he is deprived even of the last comfort, ‘the blessings of work’, self-forgetfulness in ‘daily labour’. Such a person who is basically ashamed of his existence – perhaps he also harbours a few small vices – and on the other hand cannot keep himself from becoming more spoiled and touchy as a result of reading books he has no right to or through more spiritual company than he can digest: such a thoroughly poisoned human being – for spirit becomes poison, education becomes poison; ownership becomes poison, loneliness becomes poison in persons who have turned out badly in this way – eventually ends up in a state of habitual revenge, the will to revenge. . .What do you think he finds necessary, absolutely necessary, to give himself in his own eyes the appearance of superiority over more spiritual people and to obtain the pleasure of an accomplished revenge at least in his own imagination? Always morality; you can bet on that. Always big moral words. Always the boom-boom of justice, wisdom, holiness, virtue. Always the Stoicism of gesture (how well Stoicism conceals what one lacks!). Always the cloak of prudent silence, of affability, of mildness, and whatever the other idealistic cloaks may be called under which incurable self-despisers, as well as the incurably vain, go about. Do not misunderstand me: among such born enemies of the spirit emerges occasionally the rare piece of humanity that the people revere under such names as saint and sage. From among such men come those monsters of morality who make noise, who make history – St Augustine is among them. Fear of spirit, revenge against spirit – oh how often have these propelling vices become the roots of virtues! Indeed, become virtues! And, as a question asked in confidence: even that philosopher’s claim to wisdom which has been made here and there on earth; the maddest and most immodest of all claims – was it not always, in India as well as in Greece, primarily a hiding place? At times perhaps a hiding place chosen with pedagogical intent, which hallows so many lies; one has a tender regard for those who are still becoming, growing – for disciples who must often be defended against themselves through faith in a person (through an error). . .In most cases, however, it is a hiding place in which the philosopher saves himself owing to weariness, age, growing cold, hardening – as a wisdom of that instinct which the animals have before death – they go off alone, become silent, choose solitude, crawl into caves, become wise. . .What? Wisdom as a hiding place in which the philosopher hides himself from – spirit?“ (Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science)

        Walter A. Kaufmann – Critique of Religion and Philosophy: „The third proof contains, on the face of it, a fallacy. The first premise is: “We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to be corrupted.” The second premise is that “it is im-possible for these always to exist, for that which can not-be, at some time is not.” From this second premise, about which one may well have one’s doubts, Thomas infers—fallaciously, it would seem—”Therefore, if everything can not-be, then at one time there was nothing in existence.” This inference, to which we shall return shortly, is crucial for his proof.
        He proceeds: “if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist.” This second inference requires an unstated premise which most readers would willingly grant: namely, that from nothing, nothing issues; or, to put it positively, that there must be a sufficient reason for all things. To be sure, Thomas held that God created the world out of nothing; but there was at least God in whom there may have been a sufficient reason. Seeing, then, that there are things in existence now, there cannot be contingent things only, “but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary.” The ultimate conclusion is: “Therefore we cannot but admit the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.”
        Now one might not only question the second premise: even if we grant that premise, it does not follow that if everything is contingent, “then at one time there was nothing in exist-ence.” No U.S. senator is elected for more than six years at a time, but it does not follow that at one and the same time all senators are up for re-election: they have staggered terms. Similarly, contingent things might well have staggered terms in such a way that at no time there was nothing in existence. If we accept a naive, common-sense notion of time and sup-pose that by now an infinite time has elapsed, we must con-clude, if we embrace this alternative hypothesis to Thomas, that there must have been an infinite number of contingent things; but that, of course, is not at all absurd and actually easier to imagine than Aquinas’ God. On this alternative his proof seems to be shipwrecked.
        Neither Copleston nor Gilson deals with this objection, but Copleston says that many modern Thomists consider this third proof especially fundamental (i22f.). What both Gil-son and Copleston do in effect is to assimilate this argument to the first two until no very significant distinction remains. Again, the infinite series is granted more or less explicitly, but it is claimed that, as it were, vertically, a necessary being must underlie the whole series.
        Since the conclusion in all three arguments does not follow from simple premises which are altogether overt and understandable in themselves, it is hard to say whether these proofs are valid as far as they go or not. To yield the desired conclusion, the premises must be interpreted as containing a great deal of Aquinas’ metaphysics in a nutshell; and if you accept that metaphysics, you will indeed find that it requires some-thing in addition to contingent beings, namely, at least one necessary being. But what is a “necessary being”?
        A “necessary being” is comparable to a “valid being” and to a “necessary triangle” and a “neurotic triangle.” We understand the adjective and the noun, but their conjunction is illicit. As Kant noted in his Critique of Pure Reason (B 620ff.), the adjective “necessary” has no applicability to beings: “One has at all times spoken of an absolutely necessary being, without exerting oneself to understand whether and how one could even think of such a thing. … All examples are, without exception, taken only from judgments, not from things and their existence. But the unconditional necessity of judgments is not to be confused with the absolute necessity of things. For the absolute necessity of a judgment is only a conditional necessity of the thing or the predicate in the judgment. The previously cited proposition does not assert that three angles are altogether necessary but rather that, assuming the condition that a triangle exists (is given), three angles also exist necessarily (in it).” A “necessary triangle” is obviously in the same category with a “neurotic triangle.” But “being” is such a general term that it is less obvious that “necessary being” is in the same category, too. Yet there are predicates that cannot be ascribed to beings, “Valid being,” for example, and “cogent being” are as illicit as “necessary being.” Nor will it do to substitute for “necessary being” some such phrase as “a being that necessarily exists.” Even as “valid” has meaning only in relation to some logical or legal framework, “necessary” has meaning only in relation to presupposed conditions. It makes sense to say that, if A and B exist, C must necessarily exist. But taken by themselves, the last four words do not make sense. To get around this last objection, one might rephrase Thomas’ argument, which he took from Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed, Book II, Chapter 1, while Maimonides had taken it over from the Arabic philosophers, and speak of eternal and ephemeral beings instead of necessary and contingent beings; but this variant proof would be invalidated by fallaciously ruling out staggered terms. The fourth proof, unlike the first three, seems to have some religious significance, but it depends more obviously than any of the others on Aquinas’ metaphysics and his weird Neo-platonic notions about nature. I shall quote it in full:
        “The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble, and the like. But more or less are predicated of different things according as they resemble in their differ-ent ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, some-thing best, something noblest, and, consequently, something which is most being, for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as is written in [Aristotle’s] Metaphysics. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus, as fire, which is the maximum of heat, is the cause of all hot things, as is said in the same book. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.” The first premise, that things really are more or less good or noble instead of merely being esteemed more or less, involves a good deal of metaphysics but might be acceptable to many non-Thomists. The second premise will recommend it-self to few readers indeed. In spite of its noble ancestry, we should not admit that “the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus,” as if there must be something hottest that is the cause of all heat and something most purple that is the cause of purple in all purple things.
        The number of difficulties that arises in connection with this so-called proof is stupendous. It will suffice here to comment on one only. Thomas argues that one single being is the cause of all perfections in all things, and also the maximum in each perfection. Do these perfections not exclude each other? Is not Thomas’ conception of God as self-contradictory as the idea of something that is completely red and completely green all over? He himself deals with this objection in Question 4, Article 2. The second objection there taken up is that “opposites cannot coexist. Now the perfections of things are opposed to each other,” and therefore “it seems that the perfections of all things are not in God.” Against this, Thomas asserts that since “God is the first producing cause of things, the perfections of all things must [!] pre-exist in God in a more eminent way. Dionysius touches upon this argument by saying of God: It is not that He is this and not that, but that He is all, as the cause of all.” So there.
        When Thomas comes to his specific replies to the objections soon after, he again quotes Dionysius as having said that the sun, “while remaining one and shining uniformly, contains within itself first and uniformly the substances of sensible things, and many and diverse qualities; a fortiori should all things in a kind of natural unity preexist in the cause of all things”—and St. Thomas merely adds: “and thus things di-verse and in themselves opposed to each other preexist in God as one, without injury to His simplicity. This suffices for the Reply to the Second Objection.” Does it? And was Dionysius right about the sun?
        It is easier to understand historically what has happened here than to be moved by the force of the argument. The ancient Greeks believed that there must be a god or goddess of love, wisdom, war, and so forth. They believed in many gods but supposed that one of them, Zeus, was primus inter pares. From Homer we gain the impression that this was a projection of the situation among the Greek tribes: each had a king, but one of the kings, Agamemnon, was primus inter pares.
        Later, Xenophanes lampooned the anthropomorphism of the Homeric religion: if oxen and asses believed in gods, they, too, would picture the gods like themselves. Plato sought to meet such criticisms, and particularly moral objections to the behavior of the gods, by expurgating Homer in his Republic; and soon after, in the same dialogue, he proposed his theory of Forms, which is very nonanthropomorphic indeed but salvages the old idea that there must be a perfect embodiment—or rather an unembodied quintessence—of justice and wisdom and beauty; and again there emerges one Form that is primum inter pares, the Form of the Good. In the myth of the two horses in the Phaedrus the old theological background of this theory comes through in an image as we behold the Form of beauty “once again enthroned by the side of temperance upon her holy seat” (254).
        When St. Thomas takes over these ancient Greek ideas, he encounters two difficulties. First, he must perform the leap of Plato in the tenth book of the Laws to re-endow his desiccated gods with the attributes of divinity; and then there is the further leap to fuse these questionable maxima into a single maximum, his God. Thomas takes these two hurdles in the opposite sequence. First he claims, without argument, that there is only one God; then he endows this one God with all the attributes of divinity, one by one; and then he proves that there can be only one such God. The Greek idea that there might be many gods, of whom not one has all the at-tributes Thomas ascribes to God, is ignored. So are other rival systems.
        “The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world.” It is a variation on the argument from design which Plato al-ready knew and repudiated. Thomas has transformed it by in-fusing it from the start with his own world picture: “we see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best re-sult.” If we “see” that, we are, no doubt, ready to “see” God, too. But if we tone down this premise as it usually has been presented by other writers, by way of making it acceptable, then we are very far from the desired conclusion.
        If we say, as the popular version of this proof has it, that the world resembles a human artifact, and that every artifact has been made by an intelligent designer—if, in other words, we merely see that things which lack knowledge behave as if they acted for an end, and in truth we cannot “see” more than that—then our proof is based on an analogy, and our conclusion is at best probable: “Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.” How probable this inference is depends on how close the analogy is: if it is very close, the argument gains in probability; but if the analogy is weak, the argument has little force. Philo in Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion argues persuasively that the analogy between the universe and a human artifact is not close, and he suggests some other analogies which seem to him at least as close, if not closer. One com-pares the universe to an organism, another to plants. Each of these two analogies would suggest a different kind of origin, seeing how animals and plants are begotten, Moreover, there is instinct as an alternative to intelligence. Beyond that, one may question the propriety of inferring that the whole uni-verse came into being in the same manner as any part of it whatever: after all, we could not infer the manner in which a human being is begotten from the way in which a human hair grows. The fact is that we have never witnessed the construction of anything very much like the universe, and all our analogies are weak. But if our analogies are weak, then our argument has little or no force. If we ignore our first objection and admit, if only to be nice about it, that this argument is based on a close analogy, then, on this analogy, “many worlds might have been botched and bungled ere this one was arrived at.” Alas, this one might well be one of the botched ones. Perhaps—all these suggestions are still Hume’s—our world was made by an apprentice deity who ever since has been the laughingstock of all the other gods. Perhaps it is the product of a superannuated deity whose powers failed him. Perhaps he has even died meanwhile. If we press the analogy, it leads to impious conclusions; and if we recoil in horror and admit that the analogy is not close and hence does not warrant these conclusions, our argument disintegrates.
        On the less sensational side, this argument—once we grant the analogy on which it rests—suggests three conclusions which were palatable to the Greeks, among whom it appears to have originated, but which are irreconcilably at odds with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. First, this argument—if we agree to overlook its fatal weaknesses—leads to the conclusion that the world was made even as things are made by human beings. Secondly, this analogy, if pressed, is an argument for poly-theism. In the first place, our experience tells us that the greater and the more complex an artifact is, the more beings have been involved both in the design and the execution. In the second place, there is abundant evidence of what on this analogy we should have to call cross-purposes. Finally, this analogy would justify us in ascribing imperfections to the author of so many imperfections. If it should be argued that what looks like imperfection to us is not really imperfect, then what to us appears to be design might well not be design.
        Among the things that seem imperfect from the human point of view, Hume in various places mentions want, fear, anguish, impotence, oppression, and injustice; violence, war, disease, and idiocy; famine, gout, toothaches, and rheumatism. Those who want a longer list may turn to Schopenhauer. Those who prefer a brief but poignant description of a couple of imperfections will find them in Ivan Karamazov’s argument with his brother Alyosha. And those few who have an ade-quate moral imagination will be amply served with no more than the daily New York Times; or let them read the Times’ annual sketches of “The Hundred Neediest Cases.” One can, like Job, trust in the Lord in spite of all this suffering; but in that case one will have to heed the implications of God’s challenge to Job; “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?”
        Clearly, the God of Aquinas theology is not the God of Job, Moses, or Jesus. Gilson, to be sure, tries to persuade us in book after book that Aquinas’ God is the God of the Bible. In the third chapter of his Gifford Lectures on The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy (51S., 433f.) and in his Powell Lectures on God and Philosophy (4off.)i he insists that God’s answer to Moses in Exodus 3, “I AM WHO AM,” says in ovo what Aquinas developed in detail. In his History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages, we are startled to encounter suddenly among hundreds of more conventional names in the “Index of Authors” an entry: “I AM WHO AM (HE WHO IS).” But in The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Gil-son admits in effect that the God of Aquinas’ books was not the Biblical God: “To appreciate the importance of what is at stake we have only to compare St. Thomas’ interpretation of the text with St. Augustine’s, When St. Augustine read the name of God, he understood ‘I am he who never changes/ St. Thomas reading the same words understood them to mean ‘I am the pure act-of-being'” (93). What Moses understood will be considered in Section 89. The God of Aquinas’ books was not the God of the Bible, and it is of course with his books that most theologians keep dealing. But three months before his death, in December, 1273, Thomas had a religious experience while saying Mass; and after that he gave up his work on the third part of his Summa and resisted all persuasion to continue writing be-cause, he said, “all I have written seems to me like so much straw compared with what I have seen” (Copleston, 10; Chesterton, 143). One shudders to imagine his estimate of his prolific admirers. His confession before his death—so his confessor is said to have whispered—was that of a child of five. Before his confession, as he lay on his deathbed, he asked to be read to. Not Aristotle. Not theology. “He asked to have The Song of Solo-mon read through to him from beginning to end” (Chesterton, 143f.; cf. Vaughan, last chapter).“

        „The man who chooses Genesis or Job has much more freedom than the Thomist; even those who take off from Plato will encounter less constraint. Thomism furnishes an extreme case, but even the decision to be a Thomist cannot be understood in terms of agreement alone.
        The decision is made before one has studied all of Thomas` writings and is not meant to be provisional. A Thomist does not adopt Thomism as a working hypothesis. He is not prepared to renounce it the first time he comes across a sentence which seems false. Rather he decides that he will interpret apparently false sentences in such a way that they will not be false. And he finds his reward in hundreds of surprises: Thomas already knew this, and Thomas anticipated that.“ (Walter A. Kaufmann – Critique of Religion and Philosophy)

      3. Remarks on the Aristotelian theory of concepts:

        It is once claimed as if one only had to look at an object briefly in order to have its complete concept in the soul (a kind of telepathy). So you wouldn’t need the item for inspection anymore, because you could now extract all the information from the finished concept in your soul/mind (how would then error be possible?). Artifacts cannot be conceptually understood immediately if they have never been seen or heard of before. Then again they say: „no, no. That is not that simple.“ The more complex an object is, the more difficult it is to recognize its form in its entirety. The view is always changed a little depending on the needs. So I could have a not yet complete and still partly crumbled, disruptive form in my so-called soul? And I’m just gradually building this form together? Another problem: If I see a certain animal like a dog, then according to this theory I also have the form of the dog in my intellectual soul. But the form of the dog is the soul of this dog, is the life principle of this dog. Now I am supposed to have created this in myself? A not yet materialized life force out of nowhere.That would be very strange. Or does the form occur only once in the dog, and I have mystically united myself with this form? I intensively examine a single tadpole for the very first time and I know nothing but this single tadpole. Would I then have to see the form of the frog in it? Or would I have to wait until the tadpole has turned into a frog. So the theory would then have a strong ad hoc character? If the mind is the form of my brain, then I can assume that certain thoughts about things, for example, are materially visible in the brain. Each particular thought as a particular form that is part of the whole mental form has its materialistic realization in the brain. Can the intellectual soul in an unborn fetus already receive forms? It seems that the ability to take up forms is based on the senses. We then quickly come to Aristotelian naïve realism [ „but his account of the transmission of colour from the external object to the eye is very difficult to understand.“ (J. L. Ackrill – Aristotle the Philosopher)]. I think naïve realism is no longer tenable since Locke, Berkeley, Kant, Schopenhauer, today’s psychology of perception and brain research. Mainländer simply expresses it: „The true philosophy must furthermore be idealistic, i.e. she may not jump over the knowing subject and talk about things, as if they are, independently from an eye that sees them, a hand that feels them, exactly such as the eye sees them, the hand feels them.“

        When I examine a particular tree species, I always have to go back to the view of the tree to get new essential details about it. Without this going back one would only be at loss and could just fantasize about the tree. I have once flown over reference books on the subject of concepts in Aristotle and it seems to be a very complex and dark subject where even Aristotle, perhaps out of disarray, comes up with countless terms that mean almost the same thing. The theory must also clearly deny that there are precursors to the formation of concepts in animals. Animals should have no access at all to conceptual forms, they would be, if highly developed, nominalistic in the fullest sense of the word. One wants to stick to Aristotle’s theory only because one is afraid of losing the ground under one’s feet in epistemological theory.

        Physical and physiological processes are essential to sense-perception (J. L. Ackrill – Aristotle the Philosopher). On this sense-perception the perception of forms should then also be dependent. Otherwise we are back to the mystical and telepathic knowledge of forms. But Aristotle did not yet know anything about the functioning of the senses, nor about the cognitive brain, which he considered to be a cooling system of the blood. Sometimes one has the impression that Aristotle believed that he could absorb all forms quickly. For he was very confident in his scientific statements: „There is no quality more noticeable in [Aristotle] than his unhesitating confidence in the adequacy of the human mind to comprehend the universe[.]“ (Mauthner – Aristotle)

        „Aristotle proceeds to show how reason is related to imagination. A thought is not an image, but we cannot think without images. More definitely, ‘the faculty of thought thinks the forms in the images.’ An image is a particular mental occurrence, just as much as is a sensation; thought first occurs when the mind discerns a point of identity between two or more images. But even when a universal has thus been grasped, it is Aristotle’s doctrine that imagery is still needed by the mind. ‘The soul never thinks without an image.’“ (David Ross – Aristotle) Aristotle probably means the form of the images, of the imagined things, they should also have a form. When I think of the form of the imagined, I am really identified with it, because it is my imagination.

        I have understood that the distinction between the universal and the individual is by no means real, but only exists in relation to reason.

        In the past, white men have repeatedly discussed whether Indians, Africans, women or Jews are complete human beings. These people mentioned were often regarded as something that stands between the animal and the white man, like a species of its own. If the theory of forms, as presented by Feser, is correct, one wonders how that discrimination was possible.

        „Aristotle argues persuasively that the very notion of an animal — a single, self-contained, mobile organism — requires there to be such a single centre (which he thinks to be the heart) at which all perceptual chains terminate and all reactive chains begin.“ (J. L. Ackrill – Aristotle the Philosopher)

        „The movement that reaches the heart in perception carries the character (form) of the external thing, not the thing itself. The character is received in that it arrives at a centre from which begin reactions that are to be explained as movements to take or to avoid the thing because of that character. One might say that an animal takes in the characteristics of its environment[.]“ (J. L. Ackrill – Aristotle the Philosopher)

        „The idea is now familiar that in sense-perception the changes that go through the nervous system to the brain convey in a sort of coded form the characteristics of perceived objects, messages which the brain decodes. This may be regarded as a refined version of Aristotle’s account.“ (J. L. Ackrill – Aristotle the Philosopher)

        The cognitive apparatus therefore has something chameleonic about it. The fact that external movements move my senses, which pass the movements on to a centre, sounds plausible right away. But why should the original movement remain unchanged from beginning to end? Why shouldn’t an own movement of the perceiver be added as an ingredient to the cognitive process? What about the interpretation of the movement, who guarantees its correctness?

        „There is, however, as we have seen, one very grave difficulty in his overall theory of which he is aware, not the problem of private experience but the problem of pure thought. Supposing that pure thought requires no physical organ or physiological correlate, Aristotle must hold that this kind of soul, nous, can exist in separation from the body; but he finds it difficult to say much that is clear and useful about this activity without an agent, this form without matter.“ (J. L. Ackrill – Aristotle the Philosopher)

        Addendum to teleology:
        If the moon actually wants to fly away from the earth, one can ask oneself what it wants at all. Maybe it wants to be as far away from all things as possible. Or the moon wants to reach the surface of the earth, maybe it wants to unite with earth. Or the moon wants to go to the center of the earth and maybe dissolve in that center. Who knows that? Feser’s other example of the electron moving around the atomic nucleus is also a bad example of teleology, since an atom and its interior are by no means a matter of experience.

        „The spontaneous tendency to invoke a Final Cause in explanation of every difficulty is characteristic of metaphysical philosophy. It arises from a general tendency towards the impersonation of abstractions which is visible throughout History. We animate Nature with intentions like our own. We derive our ideas of Cause, and Force, from our own experience of effort; and the changes we observe are interpreted as similar in origin to the changes we effect. This leads to the Fetichism of savages and children; to the Polytheism of more advanced intelligence; and, by a gradual refinement in abstraction, to the Metaphysics and Transcendental Physics of later days. We first impersonate the causes as Deities; we next eliminate more and more of the personal elements, leaving only abstract Entities; we finally reduce these Entities to Forces, as the general expression of Properties or Relations; e. g., the Force of gravity is only the abstract expression of
        the fundamental relation which matter universally manifests. All matter is heavy; all masses
        attract other masses; this property is as universal and fundamental as that of impenetrability; we abstract it as gravitation or attraction. In this gradation the Will first disappears; next the independent Existence; leaving finally, an abstract expression of observed order. In the final stage
        we recognize that what was assumed to be an independent something, regulating phenomena, moulding them according to its nature, is only an impersonation of the order in phenomena,
        the statement in abstract terms of the very facts themselves. Thus, observing the facts of organic growth and development, physiologists have attributed them to the agency of a Plastic Force (vis formativa, Bildungstrieb), which moulds the heterogeneous materials into definite shapes. If,
        however, we seriously consider what this Plastic Force can be, apart from the phenomena, we are quickly led to perceive that it is only a name assigned to the observed order, a generalized
        expression of the facts, which has been personified, according to a well-known tendency.“ (Fritz Mauthner – Aristotle)

        „One of Spinoza’s objections against final causation in Appendix 1 is that it “completely overturns nature,” that is, “that which is prior in nature it makes posterior.” To borrow Bennett’s analogy, teleology explains causes in terms of “pulls” (something subsequent in time explaining something prior) instead of “pushes,” i.e., efficient cause determinism where, if A efficiently causes B, then B follows from A. Spinoza is arguing here that teleology is incompatible with the efficient cause determinism, which he prescribes.“ (EDWARD ANDREW GREETIS – SPINOZA’S REJECTION OF TELEOLOGY)

        It could well be the case that Aristotle (in effect, arbitrarily) designates as the aim of a process that stage which he independently wishes to count as good. Aristotelian teleology means something is for the sake of something. I think that a completely neutral and objective evaluation of the teleological principle just mentioned is impossible, because there will always be a bit of bias involved. The only concept that could make teleology obsolete is not that of mechanism, but that of necessity.

        The concept of teleology should always be defined in such a way that the notion of final causes can be retained in nature without turning to supernatural agents. Otherwise one could get lost in wild dogmatic speculations.

        „An assessment of the world on the basis of final causes is only admissible to the extent that the efficient causes show a certain direction, as it were a point at which they will converge in the future. But the greatest caution is necessary when determining such points, because the door is open to error.“ (Philipp Mainländer)

        „In biology and medicine scientists study how an animal’s organs work to maintain the life of the animal — as well as how they grow and develop from birth; they investigate the point and purpose of activities (such as the bees’ dance) — as well as how they are performed. Discovering what the organ or the activity is for is more than discovering what regularly happens; it involves discovering the connection between this organ or activity and what other parts do, and how they all contribute to the whole life of the animal. So the general idea of certain things in nature being for something is clear enough, and acceptable.
        However, serious objections and difficulties remain: (i) we surely cannot accept Aristotle’s contention that everything that happens regularly is for something, that regularity proves purposiveness. In an animal we select from all the regularities those that contribute to the preservation of the animal, and say that they are for something, serve a purpose. Many other regularities seem to be simply law-governed chemical or physical processes that may serve no purpose. This is a distinction which Aristotle himself elsewhere allows and makes, and he deals with these nonpurposive regularities in one of two ways. Some of them may be seen as necessities which underly and are presupposed by the purposive performances. A craftsman could not carry out his skilful plans if there were not various materials behaving in certain definite ways — reliable regularities capable of being exploited and being turned to good (or bad) use. So the notion of purpose and purposive regularities positively requires there to be some non-purposive or pre-purposive regularities. Alternatively, some non-purposive regularities may be seen as accidental concomitants or results of purposive performances. When my cat drinks milk he gets his whiskers wet. He drinks milk twice a day and (consequently) gets his whiskers wet twice a day. His regular milkdrinking serves an obvious purpose, but his regular whisker-wetting serves none; it is a non-purposive concomitant of a purposive regularity.“ (J. L. Ackrill – Aristotle the Philosopher)
        „(ii) Granted that we can explain the function of some part or activity by reference to the preservation of the whole animal, does it make sense to speak of the function of the animal as a whole? Does it and its life serve a purpose? ‘What is a sheep-dog for?’ can be answered — by reference to the shepherd’s needs and desires. But ‘What is a dog for?’ sounds odd, as odd as ‘What is a star for?’ Aristotle has two moves at his disposal. First, by insisting that the individual dog is a member of the species dog he provides something beyond the individual that the individual life does help to preserve. The point of a dog’s life is to maintain the species, by living a canine life and bringing on a new generation. (But now: What is the species itself for?)“ (J. L. Ackrill – Aristotle the Philosopher)

        „[There is a deep] problem behind internal teleology: namely, how does the purpose inhere in the thing? There is not only the problem of how something future, having an ideal existence, can act in the present, but also the issue of how something universal and ideal can exist in something particular and real.“ (Frederick C. Beiser – Late German Idealism)

        „[T]he mechanist contends not that the parts of the organism come together by chance but that they do so of necessity. More significantly, he concedes that there is a problem in resorting too quickly to explanation by final causes, that we risk postulating them prematurely because we have not pushed enquiry far enough into the mechanism of nature.“ (Frederick C. Beiser – Late German Idealism)

        „Kant had argued that the concept of a final cause should have only a regulative status in the
        explanation of nature, i.e., we should treat nature as if it acts for ends because this brings systematic order to our explanation of nature; but we have no right to assume that nature really does act for ends. While Kant insisted that the concept of a final cause is irreducible to a mechanical one, and while he also believed that it is invaluable in bringing systematic unity to the investigation of nature, he was still skeptical that there would ever be sufficient evidence to assume that there really are purposes in nature. Final causes are crucial for our anthropomorphic and anthropocentric way of explaining things; but we have no insight into the purposes of nature itself.“ (Frederick C. Beiser – Late German Idealism)

        When a God is responsible for the teleology of things in nature, we inevitably lose the Aristotelian idea of an intrinsic, inherent and unconscious teleology of them. The celebrated teleology of Aristotle would then have something illusory. God would only act as an efficient cause. The telos of all things in the divine mind and the intention to create them all could be understood as a pure efficient cause. A God perfect in all qualities would hardly want to strive teleologically for finite things. God would then have to make finite states the object of his striving. This could be incompatible with his perfection. A God acting according to final causes could be just as much an anthropomorphism as nature acting according to final causes. Because: Both in nature and in God there may be no dualism between cognition and will.

        The so-called striving of things could in reality be nothing but the realization of their specific forms, but not in the sense of the realization of a goal, but in the sense of a necessity of a certain being that cannot be otherwise. The form of a natural thing would then be the sufficient cause for everything that follows from that thing. The final cause would then simply disappear, and then the other Aristotelian causes would remain, which one should then also understand in a united way.

      4. Even if one assumes that all final causal processes in nature that do not represent intelligent behavior have an intelligent originator, it does not follow that they all have the same originator. In order to obtain (There is therefore an intelligence that arranges all things in nature towards one goal, and we call it “God”) would have to be shown: Nature as a whole behaves final, not just parts of it. An overall goal of the universe, however, is not given by Thomas. (Franz von Kutschera) Even if there were an overall goal, everything, including man’s intentions from the outset, would be unconsciously included in a great nexus of final causes. We would have a general world teleology with corresponding omnipotence. Here the purposes would have to be infinitely more powerful than those of man. They would make sure that every distraction which he would bring about by his intention would be redirected long or short. Everything above man’s head would be predestined for all the future; and through his consciousness, as through a mere medium, the great chains of realization of this predetermination would have to take place unchangeably. (Nicolai Hartmann) The teleological proof of God would also fail for other reasons. On the one hand it is based on the cosmological proof of God, on the other hand teleology could be a pure natural property of natural things, so that it does not seem necessary at all to assume a God. In the best case, the proof would only prove an architect of the universe, like a demiurge who is not God with Plato either.

      5. The quote that begins in this way: „The spontaneous tendency to invoke a Final Cause in explanation of every difficulty is characteristic…“ is not from Mauthner, but from David Lewes – Aristotle. My bad.

        „Purposefulness is always present where a natural process repeatedly moves towards a similar final state. But what characterizes this final state and justifies its role in the development process? There is no doubt that the reference to “the good”, as a non-empirical metaphysical or theological construct, cannot advance us in the scientific foundation. So the problem that Aristotle did not solve and continues to pose is the problem of how and from where the obviously existing final states exist.“ (Michael Jungert)

        „Aristotle was the first to teach how to play catch-ball with the notion of potentiality. If the potential is actual or active, then certainly the whole scholastic system is acquitted on the charge of senselessness, and all teleology as well has a clear meaning. […] Moliere makes his Aristotelian ask : “Are final causes something actual in themselves, or do they operate after the manner of human intentions?“ Moliere has nailed to the counter with one short, sharp blow the distinctive puzzleheadedness of the Aristotelian[… .] It was not Aristotle’s belief in conceptions alone that was congenial to the Christian view of the world : still more congenial was the way in which he brought
        natural phenomena under notions of value. The Aristotelian conception of design is a conception of
        value, and goes very far beyond the natural conception of design which human speech in its anthropomorphic way usually attributes to nature. Aristotle created teleology in its coarsest form, and rather prides himself on having sought for traces of design everywhere. At the same time, he never laid a general foundation for his conception of design, but borrowed it, without examination, from common speech. We certainly owe countless suggestions and beautiful observations
        to the teleological view of nature : only, in such cases, the notion of design invariably supplies merely a stimulating question and not a satisfactory answer. Aristotle, however, with a childlike confidence already sees the answer in the question. He always sets his mind at rest too soon.“ (Fritz Mauthner – Aristotle)

        „Controversies
        Natural law is more a broadly pluralistic tradition of doing ethics than a precisely formulated ethical theory. People in the natural-law tradition are much impressed by the work of St. Thomas Aquinas; but after that they go in different directions. For example, some in the natural-law tradition base ethics on God’s will, along the lines of supernaturalism (Chapter 3, which has some arguments from natural-law thinkers). Others in the natural-law tradition base ethics on a naturalism that deduces ethical norms from empirical facts about desires—or, alternatively, on an intuitionism that appeals to moral intuitions or selfevident moral truths (Chapter 4). But all are (or at least claim to be) true to the inspiration of St. Thomas Aquinas. Most in the natural-law tradition are nonconsequentialists, and defend exceptionless norms (for example, against killing the innocent, see Chapter 11).
        But a few adopt a “proportionalism” close to utilitarianism (Chapter 10). Still others follow a virtue ethics (Chapter 12).
        Sexual morality
        Critics object that it needn’t be wrong to use organs for something other than their primary biological purpose; for example, there’s nothing wrong in using our feet to kick a football. So it needn’t be wrong to use sex organs for something other than their reproductive functions.“ (Harry J Gensler – Ethics)

      6. It is said that the final cause of the heart is blood pumping. Shouldn’t it be better to say that the final cause is just pumping, because the heart doesn’t care about what is pumped? Or I can put it more generally: The heart pumps so that self-preservation takes place, and so that my urge for expansion (Nietzsche) continues.

        If Feser says that sexuality has only one main purpose, then one has to ask him (because the person who makes an assertion has the burden of proof) how he knows that and what he understands by sexuality. On the one hand, Feser can say: I know it intuitively. This could be an expression to hide only one’s own prejudices. In addition, another person could say that he or she intuitively sees it differently. On the other hand, Feser could say that it is an empirical fact. But what empirical facts does Feser assume? Facts about pure external anatomy and physiology? Because he knows about a possible result of a sexual act, namely a pregnancy? But in this way one would never have thought beforehand that bonobos have other natural uses of their sexual abilities. Behavioural patterns and internal dispositions must be included in the assessment of biological functionalities. So one would have to be able to completely decipher the genetic material in order to arrive at a correct judgement. On the question of what sex is, Feser would insist only on his conservative ideas, while another would oppose them with his liberal ideas.

        „Nor, in fact, should it be deemed a slight sin for a man to arrange for the emission of semen apart from the proper purpose of generating and bringing up children, on the argument that it is either a slightsin, or none at all, for a person to use a part of the body for a different use than that to which it is directed by nature (say, for instance, one chose to walk on his hands, or to use his feet for something usually done with the hands) because man’s good is not much opposed by such inordinate use. However, the inordinate emission of semen is incompatible with the natural good; namely, the preservation of the species“ (Aquinas) The preservation of the species is thus the decisive factor according to Aquinas. The old Jews even had the thought that if you don’t reproduce, it would be like murder:
        „In a Tosephta of Jabmuth 88 a sharp word of Rabbi Eleasar Ben-Asarja is reported: “He who denies himself marriage violates the commandment of the multiplication of man and is to be regarded as murderer, who reduces the number of beings created in the image of God”.“ (Schalom Ben-Chorin: Mutter Mirjam Maria in jüdischer Sicht [Shalom Ben-Chorin: Mother Mirjam Maria in a Jewish Perspective]) This spirit of this thought also seems to have partly entered Catholicism. However, the creation of a new human being as a moral duty is very controversial. I would like to say that this duty does not exist. There are only duties to already existing people. According to Aristotle, the semen is the carrier of the soul. This means that the semen contains form and movement impulse of the male person. Thus one has come to the conclusion that the animal soul already exists in the man’s semen. All these ideas have turned out to be very questionable. There is nothing left to put a heavy moral weight on the act of sexuality, setting aside theological aspects such as the transmission of sin.

        „Finnis’s arguments against homosexuality set themselves in a tradition of “natural law” argumentation that derives from ancient Greek traditions. The term “law of nature” was first used by Plato in his Gorgias. The approach is further developed by Aristotle and, above all, by the Greek and Roman Stoics, who are usually considered to be the founders of natural law argumentation in the modern legal tradition, through their influence on Roman law. This being so, it is worth looking to see whether those traditions did in fact use “natural law” arguments to rule homosexual conduct morally or legally substandard. Plato’s dialogues contain several extremely moving celebrations of male–male love, and judge this form of love to be, on the whole, superior to male–female love because of its potential for spirituality and friendship. The Symposium contains a series of speeches, each expressing conventional views about this subject that Plato depicts in an appealing light. The speech by Phaedrus points to the military advantages derived by including homosexual couples in a fighting force: Because of their intense love, each will fight better, wishing to show himself in the best light before his lover. The speech of Pausanias criticizes males who seek physical pleasure alone in their homosexual relationships, and praises those who seek in sex deeper spiritual communication. Pausanias mentions that tyrants will sometimes promulgate the view that same-sex relations are shameful in order to discourage the kind of community of dedication to political liberty that such relations foster. The speech of Aristophanes holds that all human beings are divided halves of formerly whole beings, and that sexual desire is the pursuit of one’s lost other half; he points out that the superior people in any society are those whose lost “other half ” is of the same sex—especially the male–male pairs—since these are likely to be the strongest and most warlike and civically minded people. Finally, Socrates’ speech recounts a process of religiousmystical education in which male–male love plays a central guiding role and is a primary source of insight and inspiration into the nature of the good and beautiful. Plato’s Phaedrus contains a closely related praise of the intellectual, political, and spiritual benefits of a life centered around male–male love. Plato says that the highest form of human life is one in which a male pursues “the love of a young man along with philosophy,” and is transported by passionate desire. He describes the experience of falling in love with another male in moving terms, and defends relationships that are mutual and reciprocal over relationships that are one-sided. He depicts his pairs of lovers as spending their life together in the pursuit of intellectual and spiritual activities, combined with political participation. (Although no marriages for these lovers are mentioned, it was the view of the time that this form of life does not prevent its participants from having a wife at home, whom they saw only rarely and for procreative purposes.)
        Aristotle speaks far less about sexual love than does Plato, but it is evident that he too finds in male–male relationships the potential for the highest form of friendship, a friendship based on mutual well-wishing and mutual awareness of good character and good aims. He does not
        find this potential in male–female relationships, since he holds that females are incapable of good character. Like Pausanias in Plato’s Symposium, Aristotle is critical of relationships that are superficial and concerned only with bodily pleasure; but he finds in male–male relationships—
        including many that begin in this way—the potential for much richer developments.
        The ideal city of the Greek Stoics was built around the idea of pairs of male lovers whose bonds gave the city rich sources of motivation for virtue. Although the Stoics wished their “wise man” to eliminate most passions from his life, they encouraged him to foster a type of erotic love that they defined as “the attempt to form a friendship inspired by the perceived beauty of young men in their prime.” They held that this love, unlike other passions, was supportive of virtue and philosophical activity. Furthermore, Finnis’s argument . . . against homosexuality is a bad moral argument by any standard, secular or theological. First of all, it assumes that the purpose of a homosexual act is always or usually casual bodily pleasure and the instrumental use of another person for one’s own gratification. But this is a false premise, easily disproved by the long historical tradition I have described and by the contemporary lives of real men and women. Finnis offers no evidence for this premise, or for the equally false idea that procreative relations cannot be selfish and manipulative. Second, having argued that a relationship is better if it seeks not casual pleasure but the creation of a community, he then assumes without argument that the only sort of community a sexual relationship can create is a “procreative community.” This is, of course, plainly false. A sexual relationship may create, quite apart from the possibility of procreation, a community of love and friendship, which no religious tradition would deny to be important human goods. Indeed, in many moral traditions, including those of Plato and Aristotle, the procreative community is ranked beneath other communities created by sex, since it is thought that the procreative community will probably not be based on the best sort of friendship and the deepest spiritual concerns. That may not be true in a culture that values women more highly than ancient Greek culture did; but the possibility of love and friendship between individuals of the same sex has not been removed by these historical changes.“(Matha Nussbaum in Alan Soble – The Philosophy of Sex)

  6. Excerpts from Anthony Kenny’s review of Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition
    ANTHONY KENNY – We have all been here before

    Aristotle, more than any other philosopher, emphasized the importance of teleology in the world. As Feser stresses, Aristotle thought it was a ubiquitous feature of the universe, so that there were kinds of goaldirectedness that existed apart from conscious thought and intentions. The budding of a rose and the building of a spider’s web were no less teleological than human activities; but Aristotle knew better than to attribute consciousness to roses and spiders. We should at this point make a distinction between two kinds of teleology: purpose and design. Design differs from purpose because design is purpose preceded by an idea: a thought, or blueprint, in somebody’s mind. If the world is designed, then there was a precedent idea in the mind of the creator – what, in the John’s gospel, is called the Logos or Word. Aristotle did not believe that the world was created; for him teleology was a basic fact about the cosmos, and no extracosmic designer was needed to explain it. It was Aquinas who formulated the argument from purpose to design. Things without awareness, he argued in the Fifth of his Five Ways, do not tend towards a goal unless directed by something with awareness and intelligence, in the way that an arrow is aimed by an archer. The ultimate designer, the arch-archer, is, according to Aquinas, what we call God.

    Having rejected the Cartesian elimination of teleology, and the Darwinian reduction of it to efficient causality, Feser opts for Aquinas’s view that teleology can only be explained if there is a supreme divine intelligence. With respect to the fourth possible position, that of Aristotle, he is both too lenient and too demanding. He is too lenient in accepting Aristotle’s claim for the ubiquity of teleology, too demanding in rejecting Aristotle’s idea that teleology is a basic fact of the universe. The teleological explanation of an action or a process involves three things: that the agent should have a certain tendency to act, that the nature of that activity should be specified by its terminus, not its origin, and that the end state should be beneficial either to the agent or to something intrinsically connected to the agent. Aristotle believed that this type of explanation applied to the motions of inanimate objects no less than to living organisms. He explained the downward motion of heavy bodies by saying that they were seeking their natural place, the place where it was good for them to be. The Newtonian explanation of gravity incorporates the first two elements of teleology, but not the third: there is no suggestion that gravitational attraction is something for the benefit of the bodies involved. If one accepts Newton’s physics rather than Aristotle’s, there is no reason to think that teleology is ubiquitous. Feser accepts Aquinas’s claim that things without awareness only tend to a goal if directed to it by intelligence. It is impossible, he says, “for a thing to be directed towards an end unless that end exists in an intellect which directs the thing in question towards it”. But what reason is there to accept this thesis rather than Aristotle’s claim that teleology, where it exists, is a basic feature of the universe? Feser’s argument is that what does not yet actually exist (for example, a house) cannot bring about an effect unless it already exists somewhere, and the only place in which it can exist is in someone’s intellect (for example, the architect’s). But surely this is to treat final causes as if they were efficient causes: for it is only of such causes that it is true that an effect cannot precede its cause.

    Feser also presents dense and plausible versions of the First and Second Ways, but each of them, I believe, is untimately fallacious. There is no space in a review to show this. Feser has a habit, when his argument appears a little thin, of pointing to fuller versions of it in his other books. If I may follow his example, I would refer the reader to my book The Five Ways in which I take 120 pages to point out the flaws in Aquinas’s arguments. Feser believes that the various arguments of Aquinas establish the existence of a God whose essence is to exist. That this is a nonsensical notion was briskly shown many years ago by a philosopher for whom Feser, rightly, has a great admiration. Peter Geach, in Three Philosophers, imagines the following dialogue: Theist: “There is a God”. Atheist: “So you say: but what sort of being is this God of yours?”. Theist: “Why, I’ve just told you! There is a God; that’s what God is!”.

    But though Feser offers decisive criticisms of the arguments for atheism, his own forceful arguments for theism, I have maintained, are less than conclusive. The default position, after as before the debate, is surely one of agnosticism. We must confess that where the existence of God is concerned, we do not know one way or the other. Many people, of course, are convinced that they do know the answer to that question, whether positive or negative. A number of them express their convictions in the volume Atoms and Eden in which the journalist Steve Paulson presents interviews with a score of intellectual celebrities. By my count the roster is made up by seven atheists (including Feser’s bêtes noires Dawkins, Harris and Dennett), two deists (E. O. Wilson and Jane Goodall), three agnostics, four Christians, one Muslim, one Buddhist, and two contributors who remain evasive. The book is easy to read, and is fascinating at the intellectual gossip-column level. But as a contribution to any debate between theism and atheism, it is negligible. The interview format means that no argument gets beyond the PK4 stage, or at most as far as a selfinflicted Fool’s Mate. To be fair, the conversations are supposed to be about the broader issue of the relationship between religion and science, and not just about the existence of God or the possibility of an afterlife. It is undoubtedly interesting to know what these bright people think, but the result does not even have the objectivity of an opinion poll, since the respondents have been carefully selected. Intelligent design advocates, for instance, were deliberately excluded. Once again, the rational response to the book is an agnostic position – the stance, Paulson tells us, of Charles Darwin himself. However rational it may be, agnosticism is a grey affair compared with the heat and passion of dogmatic theism and atheism. In Agnosticism: A very short introduction, Robin Le Poidevin makes it as interesting as he can. He traces the history of the idea and of the word, gives us brief biographies of famous agnostics, and explains the relationship of agnosticism to other philosophical positions such as scepticism. He shows that agnosticism about the existence of God need not involve any generalized scepticism or a relativistic view of truth. It should not, he urges, be viewed as a final position, but should rather be accompanied by an openminded attitude, welcoming new evidence and arguments. One can combine agnosticism, Le Poidevin claims, with either a theist or atheist outlook, provided that one recognizes these as beliefs rather than knowledge. And even the kind of agnosticism that takes theism and atheism to be equally probable is compatible with a practical and emotional commitment to a religious way of life. There is nothing to stop the agnostic attending church services, reading religious texts, even praying. Many a reader of Agnosticism may find that, on Le Poidevin’s account, he is an agnostic malgré soi.

    1. Kenny from the same source:
      It is a striking feature of Feser’s book that he claims to be basing his contentions entirely on reason and not on faith. Certainly, he never explicitly appeals to any sacred text or religious teacher as an authority. But he makes extensive claims for the powers of reason. Pure reason, he tells us, proves that there is a God and that we have immortal souls. That shows that a miracle like resurrection from the dead is possible. Given this background, the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead is overwhelming. But Jesus claimed to be divine and claimed that his teachings would be
      confirmed by his resurrection. Hence, reason shows that he really was divine. But he was obviously distinct from the Father to whom he prayed, and the Spirit whom he sent. So reason shows the doctrine of the Trinity to be true. This is to extend the scope of natural reason much further than even Thomas Aquinas was willing to do.

      1. A more Nietzschean view of things: If I understand myself as a whole, as a teleological whole, then this whole expresses itself in my conscious will. All my parts, which are imperfect in themselves, work only in the service of this will. In order to find my true will, I must free myself from all previous conventions, ideas and standards. Why should I compare myself to others? After all, it’s all about me.This new natural right would require me to find my true self and disregard everything else. If someone with a theologian’ s blood points out to me his nature, namely a priestly nature, as valid for everyone, I will only wrinkle my nose.

        The scientist Aristotle disproves the philosopher Aristotle, at least in one respect. His theory of the recognizability of forms does not fit at all with his confidently asserted empirical hypotheses about natural things. Most of the forms he had in mind were completely wrong. This means that his conclusions about many natural phenomena have proved to be false. But what then did he have in his head? Are such things as false forms possible at all, which one can remodel arbitrarily in one’s own mind? Could there be incomplete forms or even fragments of forms that I can laboriously collect and put together to perhaps discover at the end that the whole is useless? How can I be sure that the form with which I want to win debates is complete and error-free? If there is no guarantee, what advantages does this theory have over others?

        Let us concede that there are Aristotelian forms. To say, for example, that a squirrel that eats toothpaste only realizes its form to a small extent would give us nothing in any way of a criterion of goodness. One could only say in a totally neutral way that this squirrel has realized so much of its form. You can’t say any more. Whether the given realization is good or bad, we cannot say. The judgement of goodness lies only with a possible divine designer, but not with us. Only this designer could say whether his work was as planned. By the way: If a living creature has only realized 50 percent of its form, then what about the remaining unrealized 50 percent? Where are these? Are they present in the living being as the small immortal part of the intellectual soul is present in man? So what’s the problem when they’re here, in this world? Then all is well, then this part of form simply did not mix with the material. The whole form is still there in its perfection, just half materialized. So what! Or this pure half lies in the beyond, all the better. Or has the living being always completely realized its form in every development phase? No problem at all. There are no problems in all these theories of form.

        The genetic relationship of all living beings, including humans, shows that one can at most assume one life form that can have many different manifestations. If we had only compared all the selfish genes that built their survival machines and now control them, we would never have come across completely isolated animal species.

        Aquinas says that the fact that we can’t live without clothes is due to sin. What does that tell us? I have no idea, but I have a feeling this is something to look into.

        “It goes without saying that Thomas talks to the science of his time and therefore arrives at conclusions that are due to the errors of the natural sciences of the time and the social regulations. Here the most important thinker of the Catholic Church reveals himself completely as a child of his time, the High Middle Ages, his thinking as historically conditioned and thus changeable. The theories and their legal consequences that came about in this way are, however, only secondary for Thomas, and he would never have come up with the idea of attributing them supertemporal significance. Some things are no longer relevant today. Even the most faithful Thomas pupils today will no longer want to claim, as Thomas does, that women are merely failed men who arise when the weather is warm and humid at the time of conception, because this climate weakens the sperm of men. The fact that the Catholic Church nevertheless clings desperately to the resulting conclusions on some points, especially those concerning sexuality and the role of women in the Church, is another story. Especially in the field of anthropology and thus also of moral theology it would be possible to compile a whole book with similar theses of Thomas Aquinas, which today only sound abstruse to us, but at that time reflected the latest state of science. Thomas’ ideas on homosexuality – and on the death penalty as an appropriate answer to it – will also have to be classified here, under the subordinate temporal condition. Against this background it becomes clear that one can be Thomist and gay at the same time.” (Berger, David. The Holy Pretense: As a Gay Theologian in the Catholic Church (German Edition) )

        In the following quotations Otto Weininger in SEX & CHARACTER reports that no real forms of the male and the female exist. There are only intermediate stages that can be determined with the help of the purely artificial concepts of the absolutely feminine and the absolutely masculine. However, these terms are only auxiliary terms from which no code of conduct can be derived. Homosexuality is a normal natural phenomenon for Weiniger. He said this already around the year 1900. This is the time of Freud, which began to have a closer look at human sexuality. Before that time, this science was still in its infancy:

        „In the widest treatment of most living things, a blunt separation of them into males or
        females no longer suffices for the known facts. The limitations of these conceptions
        have been felt more or less by many writers. The first purpose of this work is to make
        this point clear.“

        „Amongst human beings the state of the case is as follows: There exist all sorts of
        intermediate conditions between male and female – sexual transitional forms.“

        „Living beings cannot be described bluntly as of one sex or the other. The real world from the point of view of sex may be regarded as swaying between two points, no actual individual being at
        either point, but somewhere between the two. The task of science is to define the position of any individual between these two points. The absolute conditions at the two extremes are not metaphysical abstractions above or outside the world of experience, but their construction is necessary as a philosophical and practical mode of describing the actual world.“

        „Let those who regard sexual inversion as pathological, as a hideous anomaly of mental development (the view accepted by the populace), or believe it to be an acquired vice, the result of an execrable seduction, remember that there exist all transitional stages reaching from the most masculine male to the most effeminate male and so on to the sexual invert, the false and true hermaphrodite; and then, on the other side, successively through the sapphist to the virago and so on until the most feminine virgin is reached.“

        „What is new in my view is that according to it, homo-sexuality cannot be regarded as an atavism or as due to arrested embryonic development, or incomplete differentiation of sex; it cannot be regarded as an anomaly of rare occurrence interpolating itself in customary complete separation of
        the sexes. Homo-sexuality is merely the sexual condition of these intermediate sexual forms that stretch from one ideally sexual condition to the other sexual condition. In my view all actual organisms have both homo-sexuality and heterosexuality.“

        „That the rudiment of homo-sexuality, in however weak a form, exists in every human being, corresponding to the greater or smaller development of the characters of the opposite sex, is proved conclusively from the fact that in the adolescent stage, while there is still a considerable amount of undifferentiated sexuality, and before the internal secretions have exerted their stimulating force, passionate attachments with a sensual side are the rule amongst boys as well as amongst girls.“

        „There is no friendship between men that has not an element of sexuality in it,
        however little accentuated it may be in the nature of the friendship, and however
        painful the idea of the sexual element would be. But it is enough to remember that
        there can be no friendship unless there has been some attraction to draw the men
        together. Much of the affection, protection, and nepotism between men is due to the
        presence of unsuspected sexual compatibility.“

      2. The Thomists seem to know a lot about human organs and faculties. At least they show a lot of self-confidence about it. They should therefore be able to create a complete chart listing all organs and faculties with their main functions. This would be very helpful for anyone who wants to understand their theory better. This chart should also list all cases of misuse in accordance with Feser’s “contrary to” criterion.
        One has the feeling that almost all organs and faculties allow the use of the “other than” option except for sexuality. That would be almost too conspicuous, if that were true.
        So I can pervert an organ or a faculty in two ways (“contrary to” and “other than”), both deliberately and with anticipation of what I am going to do. Perverting in both cases means the same thing: thwarting the goal or purpose of those organs or faculties. This happens every time most intentionally and the non-achievement of the end is completely foreseen. All this is actively facilitated. Nevertheless, in one case it is said to be neither morally good nor morally bad, while in the other case it is absolute sin. That makes you wonder. What criteria could be used to make a meaningful distinction here? Surely only according to the extent of possible (perhaps permanent) damage to the organs, faculties or the human body as a whole. There is no other criterion left. (There are always degrees of damage and it always depends on the duration of the action deviating from the natural end. Walking on your hands can cause serious damage in the long run, as can holding a table upright with one leg or holding metal nails between your teeth.)
        In both cases a completely different end is actively and knowingly targeted, which means that the realization of the proper end is actively and knowingly frustrated. To do something for the sake of frustration of the proper end cannot happen apart from seeking a deviant one.
        Or does the Thomist only refer here to the intention of an action, and not for the realization of a harmful order?
        Chewing gum for (the sake of) the frustration of the eating and digestive faculties. This intention would only be possible for those who have read into Feser’s natural law.
        Next time I chew gum, I can tell myself I’m just chewing for active frustration. That would have to be a major moral offence. As for sex, who says “I want to actively frustrate” in their head during sexual intercourse? There are no such intentions. It is only due to the nature of the sexual act that intentions for contraception arise beforehand, because after sex, emphasis should be placed on this after, a great responsibility towards a new person is possible. That is a difference to many other human actions, but to see an exclusivity out of it would be completely wrong. It would only reveal the desire to regard sexuality as incomparable. From a general point of view, there is not much difference to chewing gum (with the perverted faculty). If all people knew that chewing gum is perverting, we would have a situation similar to sex. Grisez gives us another example: „Consider smoking. Here we use the respiratory system in a way which does frustrate its proper function to a considerable extent, particularly if one inhales. We do this for no apparent reason other than for a pleasure not unlike mere sexual release. Yet no one was inclined to consider smoking seriously evil until it began to appear that it may cause permanent damage. Even now moralists hesitate to take a very severe view of it.“ (Germain Grisez – Contraception)

        Sterile or temporarily sterile couples have two requirements when they want to have sex. On the one hand, the sexual act must resemble externally the sexual act between completely fertile couples. On the other hand, an union filled with affection must be sought.
        If these requirements turn out to be untenable, then Feser would have to admit that sex between steriles is a perverted act of sex. In the case of permanent sterility without reproductive organs, i.e. without testicles in men and without uterus and ovaries in women, the matter becomes clearer. In this case, Feser clearly says that the couple must love each other and that they must pretend to have reproductive sex.
        If he didn’t say that, he would have to admit that the couple, without having manipulated their organs, would pervert the sex act as a whole. After all, the couple would see their mutual sterility as a means of contraception. The mentioned requirements take the perversion out of the picture, so the idea. But that is all so questionable for various reasons.

      3. Fantastic point about intent. In the Perverted Faculty argument in Neo-Scholastic Essays, Feser says chewing gum is just an example of “other than” rather than “contrary too,” but as you point out, it also relies on what the person is intending at a given moment. If innocent intentions mean an action is at least not immoral, then most “non-procreative sex” is not immoral.

      4. ” If innocent intentions mean an action is at least not immoral, then most “non-procreative sex” is not immoral.”

        Teenagers do come to mind with that. And of course everyone who hasn’t read Feser.

        Feser wants to impose on us a certain knowledge of human nature with force, so that we could supposedly act more morally. Actually, reason should always know what is morally right and wrong. So the Thomists always assume. One then apparently does not need to read a book about natural law in order to act correctly in all cases. From this point of view, the matter of intention is also problematic.

        I’ve also just now read the essay you mentioned. Or rather, I more or less skimmed over the essay. Like a real Thomist, Feser tries to build an insurmountable wall around his philosophical ideas. My impression remains that he only wants to enforce his conservative values. Here are my last thoughts on the essay.

        Feser: „A hand is evidently a “general purpose” organ, without the sort of specificity of function that eyes, ears, and genitals have.“ Feser: „while it is quite a stretch to say that nature intends for us always to be grasping things!“

        Could it not be said that the hand has several, very special, main functions depending on the situation, such as grasping, striking, stroking, scratching and pricking/poking with the fingers and, culturally new, welcoming. From this point of view, walking on one’s hands for a short time can be unproblematic, even though the hands are not naturally designed to carry that much weight. One could only ask whether the general purpose of self-preservation is violated when the use of the hand with regard to one of the above-mentioned functions does not serve this higher purpose of self-preservation, i.e. only for fun or litty amusing self-harm. Why can’t Feser just say that the hand has several main functions?

        Feser talks a lot about straw men and so on, but he must realise that (with many concessions on our part in other aspects) if his new distinctions are not tenable, the straw men will quickly become steel men. Moreover, his new distinctions seem very adapted to sexuality as he imagines it, and very ad hoc constructed concerning the sexual act. This impression cannot be avoided.

        Feser: „A third point to keep in mind is that there are crucial differences between, on the one hand, an individual deliberate act of using a bodily faculty and, on the other, an ongoing and involuntary physiological process.“

        Feser: „Use of the sexual organs is an example of the former whereas hair growth, breathing, perspiring, and lactating are examples of the latter.“

        I think Feser’s referring to a straw man here. The deliberate use of an organ and the cell renewal of that organ are obviously not the same.
        I could say the following about that:
        The beard hair for example grows teleologically and the beard itself has a (teleological) function, whatever that function may contain. But it must have a function, because why should the hair grow at all (understood in an Aristotelian sense)? Then shaving the beard is a violation against natural law. Because shaving prevents the hair from exercising its continuous function as a beard. I have thus deliberately brought a faculty (beard) into a process (shaving), at the end of which the goal of the faculty is undermined at least temporarily. This may not be a great sin in the eyes of the natural lawyers, but it is nevertheless a violation. I can understand the beard as an faculty. There is even a good reason for it (male and masculine display).

        When the sexual organs (parts) all together constitute the sexual faculty (whole), and these organs grow and renew themselves over and over again in an involuntary and ongoing process, then this can also be said of the sum (whole) of the specific hairs (parts). Hair as a whole often has a protective or signalling function. You only have to ask biologists, so it’s wrong for Feser to say: “And while many people shave and some even remove most of the hair on their bodies without this plausibly being immoral, it is not clear that body hair in humans serves any non-ornamental function in the first place.”

        So we are talking about „the continual generation of hair, sweat, and milk and the continual oxidation of the blood.“ Feser now says: “It is oxidation in general, hair production in general, sweat production in general, and milk production in general that is their natural end.“ But these physiological processes are only means for the lasting functioning of certain organs and natural faculties (ends). When you mess with these processes, you are messing with the corresponding faculties. Feser then says: “And those general outcomes are not frustrated by any individual act of smoking, shaving, breast-pumping, or putting on antiperspirant.“ These outcomes are not frustrated, yes, but the faculties made possible by these constantly repeating outcomes are.

        Spermproduction is involutarily and ongoingly, as well as milk production of a breast feeding mother. A manual intervention allows both the milk and the sperm to be released. Some men can ejaculate in a few seconds via masturbation, even without the penis being properly erected, all just for fun. And women can squeeze out their milk a bit faster, also just for fun. In both cases, the hands were used to consciously let a liquid escape from the body, a liquid that has a special, functional organic end vessel in another person. If some sperm comes out of the vagina during sexual intercourse and is lost, this is not bad according to Feser, nor is it bad if some milk is lost during breast feeding, for example when the baby is spitting out. But these cases are something completely different because we are talking about cases where the human fluid receptacles are absent. So it’s not true when Feser says: „It is certainly not plausible, then, to suggest that breast-pumping as such interferes with the natural end of lactation[.]“ It’s just another attempt by Feser to make sex incomparable.

        Feser is so confident in his theory, although only small changes in the interpretation of human nature are necessary to completely turn his theory upside down. The alleged straw man objection of chewing gum is only met by saying briefly that this is a case of “other than”, nothing more is said. It is for me not acceptable that counterarguments should be dismissed so carelessly.
        And most reasons about specific aspects wander only in a circle. How do I know what the right inclinations are? Well, look at anatomy and physiology. How do I know that anatomy and physiology give all the information about human nature? Well, just look inwards, see what you feel, what you have an inclination for. And so on and so forth.

        According to Feser, homosexuals frustrate „the procreative end insofar as they involve the active taking of the physiological processes associated with sexual arousal toward a climax in which conception would be impossible even in principle[.]“ But the same could be said of permanently sterile persons.

        We have Feser’s definitions here:

        „Contrary to“ means acting for the sake of the following: to actively and deliberately frustrate the realization of a natural end of one of one’ s faculties.

        „Other than“ means that there is a lot you don’t have to do and a lot you can do.You don’t have to „consciously intend to try [somewhat redundant: intend to try] to realize“ an natural end of one of your faculties. You can use your faculties when you know their natural end won’t in fact be achieved. You can also use a faculty and foresee that the end of this natural faculty will in fact not be realized.

        The intention in the first case, the case of “contrary to”, is clear.

        In the second case, namely of “other than”, the intention is not yet clear at all. It could contain much, perhaps everything, except the intention in the first case. A problem arises when I activate and use a natural faculty for something other than the natural end and know in advance exactly what its functions are. So if I consciously strive for something other than the natural end with this natural and activated faculty, this inevitably leads to the impossibility of achieving/realizing the genuine natural end. And now comes the crux: I am well aware of this fact, as I know all the functions. This means that if I strive for something else, I know automatically and at the same time that I am activly thwarting the realization of the true end. There’s no way around it. (Like I said before: To do something for the sake of frustration of the proper end cannot happen apart from seeking a deviant one.) The complete knowledge of a natural faculty, when misused, will always imply the intention of the first case. That knowledge is actually presupposed in the moral discussion (ethics always begins its discussion with those who know, it does not assume innocent non-knowers), whereby the artificial distinction between “contrary to” and “other than” from Feser could become obsolete.

        Feser says the following about the naturalistic fallacy: „To his credit, however, Weithman explicitly declines to endorse Finnis’s allegation that the perverted faculty argument commits a “naturalistic fallacy”—an allegation which, as I have already noted, simply begs the question against the Aristotelian- Thomistic metaphysics that underlies the argument.“

        With Kai Nielsen one could in turn respond as follows:

        „Those who think they can discover what they ought to do from a discovery about “ultimate nature of reality” are tacitly assuming that what is metaphysically real or “ultimately real” ought to be done or ought to be. But it is not self-contradictory or even logically odd to say, “X is an ultimate
        reality whose nonexistence is inconceivable, but X ought not to be.” What is ultimately real could be evil or it could be quite neutral. There is no rule of language which indicates an identity of meaning between what is real and what is good or obligatory. To make such a rule by linguistic fiat and to claim that such a linguistic fiat ought to be accepted because it gives us a clearer, more adequate foundation for morals is itself an expression of a value judgment; and if such a value judgment is made, we must for the sake of clarity give up the idea that we can derive a moral statement from purely metaphysical statements and/or metaphysical and empirical statements alone.
        That many plain men infer “X is obligatory” from “God wills X, …. X is in accord with our essential human nature,” “X is of the true nature of Being” and the like, indicates they have tacitly, and perhaps even unconsciously ‘(as in a Peirceian acritical inference) assumed “What God wills is obligatory,” “What is in accord with our essential human nature is good,” etc. But here these hidden premises are themselves moral judgments; the “is” in the above sentences is not the “is” of identity, and all these statements may be denied without self-contradiction.“ (Kai Nielsen – An Examination of the Thomistic Theory of Natural Moral Law)

        „But for the sake of this discussion I will grant what I believe to be contrary to fact, namely, that “Necessary Being” and “final cause” have an intelligible use. Let us also assume for the sake of the discussion that sentences like “Nature is purposive,” “Man and nature have a final end,” and “Men were created to worship God” are true. My crucial point is: Even if these sentences really can be used to make genuine statements that are in fact true, no normative or moral statements can be derived from them.“ (Kai Nielsen – An Examination of the Thomistic Theory of Natural Moral Law)

        „Someone might still claim that I have not yet really met the Thomist or Aristotelian case. I have assumed a “metaphysical system” or a set of categories in which fact (including “metaphysical facts”) and value are distinct, but, it might be urged, the Thomistic-Aristotelian system is denying just that, for some facts and values at least. When it is claimed that nature is purposive, there is just this conflation of fact and value. I find this claim obscure almost to the point of unintelligibility. It is the obfuscation I was complaining about at the end of VI. There seems to be no intelligible job for these words here. We cannot do the usual things with them and we do not know what new things to do except that in some exceedingly obscure way they indicate that some claim is being made about a more secure foundation for our morality. But even if we can intelligibly indicate how the fact-value or evaluativedescriptive dichotomy does not apply to a statement like “Nature is purposive”
        and even if we can show that these “metaphysical realities” are at one andthe same time facts and values, I still do not see how we can derive ordinary moral or evaluative conclusions from them.“ (Kai Nielsen – An Examination of the Thomistic Theory of Natural Moral Law)

      5. If I said the following „To do something for the sake of frustration of the proper end cannot happen apart from seeking a deviant one“ it sounds a bit paradoxical. This is about the old problem of whether you can do something for the sake of evil, that is, evil for the sake of evil only. I think even for Aquinas this is not quite possible, because according to him reason tries to recognize the true essence of things and the will acts only accordingly.
        The active and deliberate prevention of the realization of a natural end is usually only a means to achieve another probably rather innocent (but according to natural lawyers unnatural) end. If I now know about the only true purpose of sexuality, namely reproduction, which according to Feser allegedly always goes hand in hand with loving unity, then we would also have the double-intention affair: My real intention, as an example, is innocent pure fun, for which in my opinion the possibility of STDs and responsibility over a new life is excluded. The fact that I want to exclude, in particular procreation, belongs – as a case of not wanting to include the realization of the true end – to that evil intention. The „evil“ intention runs parallel and subordinated to the innocent one. You can say the same thing about chewing gum. I want mere fun, but achieving this mere fun is only possible by preventing the realization of a natural purpose, which would be evil.

        Now one can turn to the parallel between contraceptive sex and chewing gum.These two acts activate and involve certain faculties, about whose main functions I am fully aware. Then the use of contraceptives is detrimental to the purpose of procreation. And then chewing gum is detrimental to the eating and digestion purposes. We may find it difficult to see, but both cases are identical in terms of the perversion of a natural faculty. Both acts are cases of “contrary to”, when the absolute knowledge of human nature is given, and which knowledge coincidentally matches with that of Feser. Or both are cases of “other than”, because we can never be sure how many main functions there are, and most people don’t think when they act in such technical terms or in biological functionalities.

      6. Here is a post in which the poster draws attention to many things that have already been discussed here.

        philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/46909/the-perverted-faculty-argument

        found in: classicaltheism.boardhost

        nojoum: „Dr. Feser mentions that according to perverted faculty argument there is nothing with wrong with sterile couples having sex because the sterile couple are not actively frustrating the nature’s end. However, this seems to be problematic. If it is impossible for the couple to conceive a child, what intention other than unity they have for having sex? Therefore, the couples are intending to have sex for unitive purpose not the procreation which seems to be morally wrong. Moreover, we can add that, it is in fact the fault with their reproductive organ that is acting as a contraceptive and they are using sex merely for unitive purposes which seems to be against the perverted faculty argument (one might say that they are not actively frustrating the nature’s end but this objection does not seem convincing to me, because I do not see any difference between sterile couples and normal couples who have protected sex).“

        „Adding to the case of sterile couples, we can go to homosexuals. First, Dr. Feser does not show that homosexuality is a grave sin as it is viewed in Catholicism. Moreover, suppose that homosexuals adopt enough number of children. Therefore what is wrong for them to marry each other and have sex because they fulfilled the nature’s end of having sex-which is suitable reproduction- by adoption  ( just like the couples who have enough children or can’t we say that or just like the sterile couples who have sex )? or at least can’t we say that they commit much less sin if they adopt children?“

        Thoughts on cases of sterility and contraception:

        A: The woman only takes the contraceptive pill for health reasons. In fact, she wishes for a child.

        B: The woman checks her fertility with all possible natural means and always communicates the results to her husband. She also secretly wishes to have a child.

        C: The woman lost her uterus guiltlessly and is therefore sterile forever.

        In these cases A, B and C the man does not want children when having sex with the women, that is his intention; he also does not want to use a condom, whereby he could manipulate his sexual organ. The man just wants to have fun and knows about the situation of these women.

        D: The woman is already pregnant, so she can’t get pregnant again.

        In this case the man also wants only fun and he is grateful that further procreation is biologically impossible. The attitude of the man is nevertheless to be understood in such a way that he does not want to have another child with the current sexual act.

        A non-procreative intention and the non-procreative result are identical in all cases. The argument of the manipulation of one’s own sex organ is only secondary to that of the actual intention not to procreate by engaging in a sexual act without the possibility of procreation. Because in case A, the woman could take the pill for contraceptive reasons, while the man leaves his sexual organ undisturbed and unaffected in this respect. I don’t think Feser would want to morally justify case A. He might say the man should ask the woman to stop taking the pill before they can have sex again. If the two have infertile sex after all, Feser has to say that the sex act as a whole, which always includes two people, is disturbed and perverted both from the point of view of the man and the woman. Feser secretly admits that the important point is whether the sexual act as a whole is perverted when he talks about permanently sterile persons. Because they could only have sex under certain conditions. If these conditions cease to exist, Feser would admit that there is a perverting of the whole sexual act that takes place among the steriles. The argument of the whole can be applied here to all cases, the manipulation of one’s own organ is directed only to the thwarting of the whole. But the manipulation is not obligatory, as one could see in case A. If the intentional thwarting of the whole is permitted, then it is permitted by whatever ways and means. Feser cannot then claim that the intention suddenly plays no role at all in the sterile cases A, B, C and D.

        It is unclear what Feser has to say about the so-called natural contraception permitted by the Church. This type of contraception definitely implies the intention to undermine the natural end of sex.

        It is quite certain that in case D Feser would object if the man used a condom out of a sudden hypochondriac but totally unfounded fear of an STD. Prohibiting the use of condoms in cases of natural impossible conception would be pure superstition. There could be cases where the man with a sterile woman does not want to have a child regardless of whether he uses a condom during sex or not. Whatever you want to say, the intention is the same. The man just wants to have fun and definitely not a child. He just wants/intends to unload his seeds out of pure lust, without the possibility of children arising. He wouldn’t care about the condom at all, because he knows it doesn’t add anything to his intention.

        What about people who have been intentionally artificially sterilized once in their lives? And they deeply regret this irreversible intervention? Are they forever excluded from sex? That would be ridiculous. One could only say that they have sinned once. But you couldn’t blame them for their sexual actions if they were carried out according to the supposed natural standards. Also, there should be no moral difference as to which organ or faculty I am destroying. Let’s say I destroy my auditory system. But if I clean my ears with cotton swabs, there is a risk of hearing loss, even if it seems very low, according to doctors. However, according to Feser, the use of cotton swabs is harmless, even though this great danger is present and even though the ear cleans itself in a teleological process. To put oneself only in danger of being able to act immorally is already ethically very problematic according to the Church. Just think of drinking a little alcohol, which can lead to more and more.

        On the function of the hand: Perhaps it really only consists of grasping. Feser cannot rule this out with absolute certainty.

      7. Once again on the subject of sterility and contraception:

        I could use a sterile woman, of course in consensual sex, to realize my intention, namely the intention to let my semen out for pure pleasure without the possibility of pregnancy. So my goal is to intentionally activate my sexual faculty while preventing the realization of the natural end of this faculty.

        But I could also use a condom when having sex with a fertile woman so that the same intention can be realized. There is really no difference between these two actions in terms of their intention.

        I don’t necessarily have to manipulate anything about myself, I could also ask a woman to use a diaphragm.

        When having sex with a sterile woman, Feser surely won’t want to persuade me that I should imagine the possibility of a miraculous fertilization as belonging to my intention. I will surely have some intention, and perhaps that will only be pure love and lust, so that I would have sheer moral luck not to use contraceptives. If the woman had not been sterile, I would have had to use contraceptives to grant my lust.

        Since sex is a process between two people, I have to consider the process as a whole. I have to see if the other part of the whole is also in accordance with the natural end of the whole, which I do not think is the case with sterility on the other part, even if no one had any influence on it, and which is also not the case when it comes to contraception on the other part.

        If I know that the circumstances cannot possibly lead to the realization of the purpose of the whole and still get involved in the activation of the whole, one could interpret it in such a way that I consciously and actively want to undermine the realization of the purpose by merely entering deliberately into the process. This is indeed possible.

        If that is not possible, the following applies: Then the malignancy or goodness (or moral neutrality) of sterile sex depends on whether both parties love each other and pretend to be procreating a child. But these are two criteria that are very problematic and still need to be justified. These criteria are mentioned in Feser’s “Last superstition”.

      8. Good point. I wonder if these guys would say it’s a “sin” to ask a woman to use birth control or something, or to have sex with someone using contraception that you don’t know about.

      9. On masturbation and sterility/contraception

        In principle, Feser would have to admit that masturbation can be morally neutral.

        Criteria for moral neutrality in this case: You don’t have to „consciously intend to try to realize“ the natural end of your sexual faculty. You can use your sexual faculty when you know its natural end won’t in fact be achieved. You can also use this faculty and „foresee“ that the end of this natural faculty will not be realized.

        And most importantly: My intention is not frustration, but fun, health, relaxation, perhaps even love in thought. Feser would perhaps mention here the unifying function, but as I said, my intention is not to frustrate any function, hence also not the unitive one.

        So we have here a clear case of “other than”.

        Psychologically, there is no difference to sex with a contraceptive user who appears as a masturbation device, even when mutual short and little love is involved. (In that case, one could say, I would’ve just known shortly before sex that she was using birth control. Does the intention of the other person influence then the morality of my own intention? Morally, only each person is considered individually and I have not asked the other woman to take contraceptives, nor do I know the exact reason why she is taking contraceptives. Would it be necessary to ask about all this before having sex, although any answer would be uncertain? For simplicity’s sake, let’s say the person in this case took the pill for purely hormonal reasons, that is, for health reasons. I have heard before that this happens.)

        This is also a case of „other than“ because the same intention is given.

        Sex with a temporary or permanent sterile person goes parallel to the above examples. (Would I have to ask first why the other person is sterile, namely whether the sterility is self-inflicted or not? But I will never know about the true intention, no matter what the person says, it could be the other way around, because the other person might not know about her true intention either. It could have been a completely innocent intention. I myself could also happen to be temporarily sterile for whatever innocent reason.)

        What would morally classify all these cases as bad. Apparently only the intention to frustrate. But this intention seems to be very difficult to implement and to be done. And the intention to avoid stress with a possible baby (that means to achieve relaxation, fun and well-being) is not the same as the intention to actively prevent the realization of the natural end (that is, to frustrate this end).Thus, the use of any form of birth control could be morally neutral by all participants, since those contraceptives only serve the “other than” purpose.

        I know of someone who questioned a Catholic moral theologian about masturbation. This theologian said that masturbation, only if directed “against” God, would be very morally bad.

        What else could there be that would lead me to the evil intention: Only the knowledge of all natural functionalities and ends and of all circumstances. But this criterion would again prohibit any sex with a permanently or temporarily sterile person. Whether I just let my semen out on the floor or in a sterile person, it makes no difference. Through knowledge I would perhaps undermine the realization of the true purpose in the following way: I would achieve my “other than” goal only by the “means” of the “contrary to” of the known true purpose. How else would I be able to achieve the “other than” goal? And the “other than” goal is not the true goal. Approaching the first goal is like moving away from the latter. The knowledge then gives the entire thing a deliberate character. That all this in turn leads to absurdities has already been demonstrated by the example of chewing gum.

      10. The question is also from whom actually the judgement comes whether something corresponds to the “other than” or the “contrary to”. From yourself or a third person? If one person judges another, and the judging person knows that the judged person has no idea of any purpose, then it is clear that the judging person can only identify an “other than”.From the point of view of the acting person, there is neither a “other than” nor a “contrary to”. It is probably impossible, through experience (from whatever point of view: 1st person or 3rd person), to identify a single case where the intention of an action consisted solely in a “contrary to”. It can never be excluded with certainty that really no secret “other than” motive has constituted the determining intention. This consideration is freely based on Kant. Moreover, this consideration is based on the idea that we can know exactly what human nature consists of. We can never know that with absolute certainty, let alone that one nature exists.”We have seen that the main objection to absolute morality is that even if there were absolute moral standards we could never know if we had found them.” (Walter A. Kaufmann – The Faith of a Heretic)

      11. http://www.iep.utm.edu/sexualit/#H9
        „Note that Aquinas’s criterion of the natural, that the sexual act must be procreative in form, and hence must involve a penis inserted into a vagina, makes no mention of human psychology. Aquinas’s line of thought yields an anatomical criterion of natural and perverted sex that refers only to bodily organs and what they might accomplish physiologically and to where they are, or are not, put in relation to each other.
        10. Nagel’s Secular Philosophy
        Thomas Nagel denies Aquinas’s central presupposition, that in order to discover what is natural in human sexuality we should emphasize what humans and lower animals have in common. Applying this formula, Aquinas concluded that the purpose of sexual activity and the sexual organs in humans was procreation, as it is in the lower animals. Everything else in Aquinas’s sexual philosophy follows more-or-less logically from this. Nagel, by contrast, argues that to discover what is distinctive about the natural human sexuality, and hence derivatively what is unnatural or perverted, we should focus, instead, on what humans and lower animals do not have in common. We should emphasize the ways in which humans are different from animals, the ways in which humans and their sexuality are special. Thus Nagel argues that sexual perversion in humans should be understood as a psychological phenomenon rather than, as in Aquinas’s treatment, in anatomical and physiological terms. For it is human psychology that makes us quite different from other animals, and hence an account of natural human sexuality must acknowledge the uniqueness of human psychology.
        Nagel proposes that sexual interactions in which each person responds with sexual arousal to noticing the sexual arousal of the other person exhibit the psychology that is natural to human sexuality. In such an encounter, each person becomes aware of himself or herself and the other person as both the subject and the object of their joint sexual experiences. Perverted sexual encounters or events would be those in which this mutual recognition of arousal is absent, and in which a person remains fully a subject of the sexual experience or fully an object. Perversion, then, is a departure from or a truncation of a psychologically “complete” pattern of arousal and consciousness. (See Nagel’s “Sexual Perversion,” pp. 15-17.) Nothing in Nagel’s psychological account of the natural and the perverted refers to bodily organs or physiological processes. That is, for a sexual encounter to be natural, it need not be procreative in form, as long as the requisite psychology of mutual recognition is present. Whether a sexual activity is natural or perverted does not depend, on Nagel’s view, on what organs are used or where they are put, but only on the character of the psychology of the sexual encounter. Thus Nagel disagrees with Aquinas that homosexual activities, as a specific type of sexual act, are unnatural or perverted, for homosexual fellatio and anal intercourse may very well be accompanied by the mutual recognition of and response to the other’s sexual arousal.“

        Joseph R. DesJardins – Environmental ethics:

        „Unfortunately, several major objections to the Aristotelian tradition weaken its relevance to contemporary debates. The first objection denies that natural objects have one definite and distinctive telos. It seems true that some objects have a definite purpose or function. Human artifacts, such as chairs and computers, are obvious examples. Some parts of a natural whole, such as a heart or a chromosome, also seem to have natural functions. But for a thing to have a function within a system is not the same as its having a good of its own. Besides, it does not seem obvious that these wholes or systems themselves have a purpose. What, for example, is the characteristic activity or function or purpose of a human being? What is the characteristic activity of a spotted owl? Many philosophers and scientists in the modern era have thought that they could fully understand and explain natural objects without having to assume some natural purpose or plan.
        A second objection denies that we can conclude that something is good simply because it is natural. Because some natural occurrences seem evil—for example, pain and suffering caused by death, disease, and natural disasters— some reason other than the appeal to nature must show why something is good. It would be a giant leap, for example, to reason from the characteristic natural activity of the HIV virus to the conclusion that this virus is good. In the natural law tradition, the explanation most often given for the connection between natural and good lies in a divine plan. However, this appeal effectively ends the philosophical discussion, because it provides a reason only to those people who already assume a divine creator. To people of other religious traditions or to people who do not believe in a supremely good creator, this reason carries little rational weight.“

      12. If anyone would object that I have only mentioned hedonistic reasons for masturbation, one can mention the anecdote about Diogenes. He was more concerned with the temporary elimination of what he saw as a probably annoying and unwelcome urge and need. Getting rid of an evil cannot be matched with hedonism as it is popularly understood.

        DIOGENES LAËRTIUS on Diogenes of Sinope

        Behaving indecently in public, he wished “it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing the belly.”

        Catholic doctrine has not made explicit the implications of its reasoning – namely, that procreative potential is an absolute moral requirement for all sexual intercourse. The natural law argument in its classical form implicitly ruled out any intercourse, even in marriage, which will not lead to conception, whether on account of age, pregnancy, or permanent or temporary infertility. The latter applies to most of the female’s monthly cycle. One may be forgiven for wondering why this procreative requirement has become the basis for saying that all homogenital acts are unnatural and hence objectively wrong and immoral. Given what we now know about the nature and irreversibility of homosexuality, the Catholic position seems selective in emphasizing the procreative function of sexual organs over the ‘given’ (i.e. natural) physical, emotional and psychological facts about sexual attraction. Why the emphasis must remain on reproduction has never been made clear. To be fair, Aquinas did make a distinction between those deprivations of procreative potential which essentially lack such potential and those that only accidentally lack it. In the Summa Contra Gentiles, Thomas stipulates that any genital activity that allows for no possibility of insemination (the depositing of semen in the vagina) is regarded as essentially non-procreative and hence unnatural. While heterosexual infertility is deemed only ‘accidentally’ non-procreative, homogenital acts or contraceptive acts are ‘essentially’ non-procreative. This distinction appears somewhat academic, however. For instance, few would claim that insemination continues to have the same ‘essentially’ procreative potential after the female partner is post-menopausal, or between a married couple when one partner is infertile. Yet there is no suggestion from the Vatican that post-menopausal intercourse, or intercourse between a fertile and an infertile spouse is in any sense immoral. The essential-accidental distinction of St. Thomas is unconvincing and casts doubt on whether his conception of natural law provides an adequate basis for the condemnation of homogenital acts as such.

        Murray, T. M.. Thinking Straight About Being Gay

        Naturalist theories of ethics maintain that it is possible to arrive at true moral statements from factual premises, established a posteriori. Accordingly, we can have knowledge relevant to ethics just as we have knowledge in other disciplines. Gerard Hughes interprets natural law ethics as a version of naturalism: “… ethics is at root an empirical study, something we find out about, in the way that we might find out about astronomy or physics or psychology or medicine. And just as further information will as a matter of course call in question previously accepted conclusions in these sciences, so too further information about human nature and its environment can call in question previously accepted conclusions in ethics. Ethics is inevitably provisional, revisable, for the same kinds of reason that our beliefs about astronomy, physics, or medicine are revisable.” In Hughes’s view, the quest for moral truth is related to the quest for truth about other facts, which can be tested against empirical evidence. The facts are revisable in ethics, then, for exactly the same reason that they are revisable in other disciplines — because our knowledge of ourselves and of the world is constantly evolving. Therefore, our conclusions in ethics will be provisional at best. Hughes argues that it is implicit in a natural law ethic that our view of what is ethical will change over time as our knowledge of human nature develops. This kind of naturalism is quite different from Magisterial naturalist theories that maintain that certain given patterns in nature have intrinsic value that dictate or disclose human purposes in an unchangeable way. Hughes’ understanding of natural law differs dramatically from theories that define value judgments as implicit in matters of fact. In some modern writings about ethics, ‘naturalism’ is used in a narrow sense to refer to theories that equate or reduce ethics (values) to a selected set of observed facts, or slide from descriptions to prescriptions, as though moral imperatives were ‘inscribed’ in nature and could be ‘read off’ as precepts. In Principia Ethica (1903) G.E. Moore argued that this kind of naturalism committed what he called the naturalistic fallacy. Later Moore made an important refinement when he said that a value term like ‘good’ is not identical with any natural or metaphysical property. This was a significant modification, for Moore was not saying that ‘good’ was unrelated to our knowledge of natural properties, but only that moral value could not be automatically identified with or revealed in those properties. Commenting on what he had said about the naturalistic fallacy in Principia Ethica, Moore clarified that committing the ‘naturalistic fallacy’ means either confusing Good with a natural or metaphysical property or holding it to be identical with such a property or making an inference based upon such a confusion.’ Moore’s revised way of understanding the naturalistic fallacy also excludes what David Hume thought suspect: the attempt to derive an ought directly, and without further explanation, from an is. The move from propositions containing is to others containing ought, says Hume “… is of the least consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ‘tis necessary that it should be observed and explain’d; and at the same time, that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.” To say that ethics should be related to non-moral knowledge (i.e. empirical facts) is not the same as saying that ethics should be patently dictated by, or equated with, this knowledge. One of the main difficulties, as Hughes points out, is that there is an enormous amount of non-moral knowledge and there is no self-evident way to discern which part of that knowledge ought to be relevant to a particular ethical question. The choice to give emphasis to one set of facts over others is a matter of values, not of ‘objective’ truth or ‘revealed’ wisdom. Facts alone do not dictate moral values, but they do set the boundaries within which moral responsibility can be assigned to human agents. In this respect, facts do matter, and they matter quite a bit. According to Lisa Sowell Cahill, the consistency and frequency of homosexuality as a human phenomenon, while having implications for moral judgments, are not sufficient to establish whether a certain constitution or behavior is psychologically healthy or pathological. Even less, she says, does the mere recurrence of “certain biological or psychological conditions” in human societies establish whether those conditions are right or wrong. What, then, would be sufficient to ground normative judgments – like Cahill’s own – that homosexual orientation is “less than fully human”? Cahill admits that her own (and the Church’s) use of both scriptural and non-scriptural sources is “not without equivocation.” I have already explained how St. Paul and other moralists have equivocated on ‘natural’. Some Catholic theologians seem to recognize this. My objection, like that of revisionists, is not that the physicalist interpretation of natural law valued the connection between fact and value. Facts should influence value judgements. Rather, my objection is to the way that physicalist approaches to sexual ethics selected such a narrow set of facts to emphasize. In particular they gave some physical aspects of human nature disproportionate weight in comparison to the other physical, emotive, affective, and rational aspects. It treated us less as persons than as bodies, and even as such, selected a narrow set of functions for which our bodies may be used. I do not in any way disparage embodiment. To expect that sexual acts ought to involve the kind of sexual attraction and arousal of which homosexuals, no less than heterosexuals, are physically and psychologically capable seems to me the essence of ‘embodiment’. And to expect that a homosexual person will behave in accordance with her own given sexual orientation (unless there are good reasons not to) also seems consistent with an integral understanding of human nature as both mind and body. It seems that what is distinctive of human nature, or what is universal to all of us in distinction from animals, is not our particular biological capacities, but conscious freedom to direct our lives within the limits set for us. Conscious freedom, or the ability to act for reasons of our own making, appears to be the most common basis of our human nature. In a sense, natural law is neither ‘natural’ nor is it ‘law.’ It is not natural in the sense that the moral law cannot be identified with physical, chemical, or biological laws of nature which purport to express the way the natural world works. Thomas Schmidt has observed that, “Natural may refer to something that happens repeatedly in nature — that is, in the world — in which case we assign no moral judgment to it. Events occur in nature: for example, spiders kill and eat other spiders, including their mates.” Schmidt makes the important distinction between this sense of ‘natural’, which is an explanation of behavior, and the putatively moral sense of ‘natural’, which purports to be a justification for behavior. Natural law is not law in the way that forensic laws function as absolute commands, directly disclosing to us our duties. The connotations of the word ‘law’ seem to imply that given physical and biological orders dictate moral obligation. The human concept of law would appear to suggest that natural law simultaneously describes how things are and prescribes how they should be. How we choose to define our nature is important because the descriptive informs the prescriptive; what we prescribe or think we ought to do depends upon what we describe as ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘natural’ for beings such as us. Unfortunately, it is impossible to deploy these terms without presuppositions about ‘health’ or ‘nature’ and so to separate them from value judgments. While description is an attempt to explain what ‘is,’ not to evaluate what ‘ought’ to be, some terms actually do both. Synthetic terms, according to Janssens, are “words which refer to the material content of an action but at the same time formulate a moral judgment.” When considering how synthetic terms are applied to particular sexual acts in Christian parlance (e.g. “adultery”, “fornication”, “perversion”, “sin”), it is important to bear in mind that symbols, linguistic conventions or definitions can actually ‘construct’ a reality while seeming merely to explain or describe it. As Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann have argued, apparently ‘scientific’ theories have a tendency to shape the reality they claim only to interpret — especially when they achieve dominance in a culture. The description given to a particular act will, if we accept its relevance, color our moral evaluation of it. By our conventions of reference we impute meaning to the raw data, which in turn reflects human purposes — our own or those of the group to which we belong. These meanings become “common sense” and provide the community with its identity. To break such community-defining conventions is to appear to be a traitor to the community. Laws, in the human juridical sense, are prescriptive and conventional. Laws of nature, by contrast, are descriptive. One of the clearest explanations of the modern distinction between descriptive and prescriptive laws comes from Bryan Macgee: “The word ‘law’ is ambiguous, and anyone who talks of a natural or scientific law being ‘broken’ is confusing the two main uses of the word. A law of society prescribes what we may or may not do. It can be broken – indeed, if we could not break it there would be no need to have it: society does not legislate against a citizen’s being in two places at once. A law of nature, on the other hand, is not prescriptive but descriptive. It tells us what happens – for instance that water boils at 100° Centigrade. As such, it purports to be nothing more than a statement of what, given certain initial conditions, such as that there is a body of water and that it is heated, occurs. It may be true or false, but it cannot be ‘broken’, for it is not a command: water is not being ordered to boil at 100° Centigrade … nowadays no one would dispute that [laws of nature] are not prescriptions of any kind, to be ‘kept’ or ‘obeyed’ or ‘broken’, but explanatory statements of a general character which purport to be factual and must therefore be modified or abandoned if found to be inaccurate.”65 The Catholic arguments to demoralize those who engage in homosexual behavior have exploited the ambiguity in terms like ‘law’ and ‘natural’ to full advantage. As a result the documents produced have been fraught with confusion about the relationship between the empirical and the moral. A typical example appears in Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, where it is stated that “the natural truth about marriage was confirmed by the Revelation contained in the biblical accounts of creation, an expression also of the original human wisdom, in which the voice of nature itself is heard.” The Vatican’s teaching has wavered between two extremes: a priori pronouncements that give too little attention to observable features of the real world, or over-emphasis on some features of the real world to the exclusion of others. Critics propose an a posteriori methodology that takes into its scope the most universal and distinctive features of our humanity (i.e. our capacity to reflect, learn, grow, relate and choose). They recommend that we use these features as a basis for moral judgments about human behavior. Critics also realize that moral judgment is not appropriate where there is no possibility of choice. For example, few heterosexuals would claim to merit moral praise for what is not in their power to control. Heterosexuals have never, to my knowledge, suggested that being attracted to the opposite sex, and behaving accordingly is, in itself, a moral virtue. This is because they recognize that no one deserves praise for involuntary urges, or doing what comes naturally to oneself. It is not heterosexuality, per se, that might be considered a moral good, but the ways in which the human agent responds to the fact of his heterosexuality (or homosexuality) within an interpersonal context. One response to heterosexual impulses might be to act on every sexual impulse one feels. A heterosexual male might be womanizing, exploitative, or even violent. Any wanton expression of his ‘natural’ impulses might be regarded as a moral virtue, were we to view natural biological inclinations as key criteria for measuring moral virtue. But we do not. It is not his heterosexuality, nor the procreative potential of his actions, that might make a heterosexual’s sexual behavior good (in the moral sense). Rather, we must evaluate his acts relative to the ways in which they impact others. Grounding sexual morality in the will of the agent in his interpersonal situation (and not in the biology of his genitalia) illuminates the reasons why homosexuality per se is not a tendency towards moral vice. This is not to say that homosexuals could not act in morally vicious ways, for example, if they chose to express their given sexuality in exploitative or abusive ways. But this would be equally true of heterosexuals. Homosexuals have never claimed that their sexual orientation extinguishes their free will, thus making their sexual behavior immune from moral evaluation. They simply argue for the adoption of a single standard for evaluating the morality of all sexual behavior. Anything short of this single standard constitutes discrimination, as it demoralizes one group on the basis of innate biological differences. In this sense homophobia is tantamount to racism or sexism. Thomas Schmidt has observed that, to many people today, homophobia is viewed as tantamount to racism. He correctly notes that many now see homosexuality as a civil rights issue, not a moral issue.66 But Schmidt misrepresents the reasoning behind this shift, calling it “confusion between what is legal and what is moral”. The shift away from seeing homosexual behavior per se as immoral is underpinned by natural law methodology, which relates ethics to a holistic understanding of human nature. It aims to rest conventional laws on features of humanity common to all of us. Like most Christian versions of ethics, natural law theory presupposes that conventional laws can, and should, be measured against the natural law that aims to protect what is essential to human flourishing. Thomas Schmidt says the incorporation of gay rights into the wider civil rights movement is the symptom of a society that has made tolerance the supreme virtue, where “a foolish majority” turn liberty into license. Schmidt claims homosexual behavior is seen as a ‘right’, as opposed to immoral behaviors like adultery, polygamy, or incest. This, he observes, is because homosexuality is seen as something that people are rather than as something that people do. Schmidt is correct to say that many people today look upon homosexuality the same way they look at heterosexuality: as something that people are, such that a particular set of activities (including sex) will ‘naturally’ flow from this fact. Those who think homosexuality is a matter of civil rights would regard homosexual adultery, paedophelia, rape, exploitation, or polygamy no differently than they would regard heterosexual versions of these acts. Homophiles understand that liberty to express one’s sexuality with other consenting adults is not license to abuse others. Homosexuals have never suggested that their sexual orientation gives them license to perform abusive, or any, immoral acts. Homosexuals merely demand that they be permitted to engage in consenting sex with a partner of their choice (in keeping with their given biological nature), just as heterosexuals are permitted to do. The difference between their demand for civil rights and the demands of other people with inclinations to engage in unconventional sexual behaviors is that the latter behaviors listed by Schmidt (adultery, polygamy, or incest) are illegal or taboo for a good reason – namely, they harm others or tend to be unilaterally applied in exploitative ways. In the case of homosexuality, no such harm exists. The ‘harm’ done is purely theoretical. It is really just offence to a traditional set of religious definitions and beliefs. Consenting adult homosexual behavior only harms the sensibilities, tastes or values of those who cling to theological definitions of nature not grounded in empirical fact. In this sense, the ‘harm’ it causes is comparable to the harm done by any unconventional belief or behavior. Many unorthodox beliefs are seen in hindsight as progressive and enlightened in comparison to the relative narrowness of their contemporary milieu. The drive to proscribe behaviors that are merely offensive, but not harmful, presupposes the infallibility of the predominant or powerful group’s worldview. It also undermines what most people today agree to be definitive of an immoral act: namely, that it willfully harms others without justification. Schmidt himself says, “The New Testament frees believers from the constraints of ritual purity (Mk. 7; Acts 10) and redefines sin as “intent to harm”. Human rights activists argue that positive laws ought to reflect, and protect, fundamental aspects of our humanity. While there is room for debate about which features of human nature are most important, the methodology used to discover truths about human nature cannot be so limited as to exclude the intellectual, creative, active aspects of human reason. Nor should it eschew a broad base of empirical evidence, and the vast experience of human individuals. A description of ‘nature’ that rests entirely upon the beliefs or doctrine of a particular religion is today widely regarded as furnishing only the most biased and limited of definitions. Thomas Schmidt’s arguments are exemplary of what is wrong with contemporary Christian arguments against homosexual civil rights in his insistence that the basis for positive law must be a religious one. He admits that, “as a moral category natural refers to something that is in accord with God’s intention … . In summary, that which is natural to human experience or human desire is not necessarily natural in God’s moral design.” But Schmidt himself often uses the prescriptive sense of natural as though it were more than a synthetic term used by a community of fallible religious believers. Although he is clear about his moral judgment against homosexual behavior, he justifies his position by referring back to the specifically religious category of ‘unnatural’ even while reluctantly acknowledging that homosexuality may well be ‘natural’ in the descriptive sense that it is found to occur in many species (including homo sapiens) and may even have genetic causes. This refusal to move beyond narrow religious categories that describe nature without reference to empirical evidence and vast human experience supplants natural law ethics with a cultic version of positive law.

        Murray, T. M.. Thinking Straight About Being Gay

      13. If Feser’s problematic distinction between “other than” and “contrary to”, which Aquinas apparently does not make, does not work, then of course the following quote applies. Feser obviously wants to legitimize the “other than” by the fact of sterile sex. I think sterile sex is understood from the point of view of a couple more in the sense of “contrary to” or in the sense of “attempted realization of purpose”, but failed due to external circumstances.

        Chris Meyers – THE MORAL DEFENSE OF HOMOSEXUALITY

        IS IT WRONG TO USE AN ORGAN FOR SOMETHING
        OTHER THAN ITS PROPER PURPOSE?
        „Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that the human sex organs have only one innate, natural purpose, and that is procreation. I have already shown that that is not reasonable, since the other functions of pleasure and emotional bonding are crucial parts of their evolutionary explanation. But now we want to consider the second part of the teleological argument against homosexuality—the claim that it is wrong to use an organ for anything but its “proper” purpose. Call this the teleological principle. This principle turns out to be false. Thus, even if the sex organs had only one proper purpose, it would still not be wrong to use them for other purposes.
        Consider the human foot. If the human foot has any proper purpose it would be for walking and standing. The human foot is a very important feature of human anatomy and has an important role in human evolution. One very important, though not so obvious, anatomical difference between apes and humans is that we have flat feet that are well suited for walking long distances. Chimps and other apes, by contrast,
        have feet better suited for hanging from trees than for walking. That is why early humans (Homo erectus) wandered to every corner of Europe and Asia, while our chimpanzee cousins never strayed from tropical Africa. Does that mean that soccer players or karate enthusiasts, who also use their feet for kicking, are misusing their foot organs in ways that are morally objectionable? That is absurd. Since kicking soccer balls, or planks of wood, is obviously not morally wrong, the teleological principle fails. One reply that defenders of the teleological argument might give is
        that kicking is included in the many different functions or purposes that the foot has. They might then claim that the proper purpose of the foot is standing and walking, and kicking. But this list would have to be extended indefinitely to include all the uses of the foot that are obviously not morally suspect. The proper purposes of the foot would include walking, standing, kicking, hopping, pedaling a bicycle, tap dancing, manipulating a wah pedal, crushing cockroaches, and so on. But some of these allegedly proper functions are quite implausible. The foot could not have evolved for bike riding since the bicycle has only been around for about 150 years. Moreover, if the teleological view is to be meaningful, there must be some use of the foot that is not included in its repertoire of innate, natural functions. Suppose I learn to write or draw with my foot. The manipulation of writing tools is surely not included in the innate, proper function or purpose of the foot. (The human foot is not well suited for tool use and its selection had nothing to do with being useful for that purpose.) The teleological principle would imply that I am doing something morally wrong by writing with my foot. That is obviously unreasonable.
        If the foot has more than one purpose, then there is good reason to think that the genitals also have more than one purpose. And if it is not morally wrong to use a foot for something other than its purpose, then the same should be true of the genitals. Defenders of the teleological argument against homosexuality could try to argue that the purpose of the foot has no moral significance, but the purpose of the genitals does. But that would be ad hoc, meaning that this distinction would be proposed only because it is convenient for those who are trying to argue that homosexuality is morally wrong and not for any independent reason. The only reason someone would say that it is wrong to misuse the genitals but not wrong to misuse other organs is that he has already decided that homosexuality is wrong and needs to find some argument
        to justify it.
        Now let’s consider oral sex. According to the teleological argument, to engage in oral sex is to misuse the genitals. But if oral sex is a misuse of the genitals, then it seems it must also be a misuse of the mouth. (It would not make sense that the purpose of the mouth could involve oral sex but that using the mouth in this proper way would involve misusing the genitals.) If oral sex involves a misuse of the mouth, then it would seem that kissing should also be a misuse of the mouth. Kissing is a part of sexual intercourse for most couples, along with various kinds of acts that serve as “foreplay” (including oral sex).8 But none of this is strictly necessary for intercourse to result in pregnancy. According to the teleological argument, the sole proper function for sexual intercourse is reproduction, and it is wrong to engage in sex (or use the genitals) for any other purpose. Thus, kissing and any other kind of foreplay should be avoided if we follow the teleological argument to its natural conclusion. Surely there is nothing morally wrong with kissing, at least under the appropriate circumstances (no PDA, please!). Thus, there is nothing morally wrong with using the mouth to express love and affection. And there is no reason to think that the sex organs—or any other body part—are any different from the mouth in this regard.“

      14. When assessing biological organs and faculties, one should consider them as generally as possible in order to be able to compare them. If someone invokes individual specifics to make an analogy impossible, a never-ending discussion begins in which only absolute experts in anatomy, physiology and biology are allowed to participate. For at the end of the day these faculties are not identical, but when we philosophize we should only consider one common element, so that all faculties are in a clear analogy.

        If the Thomists are like Aristotle in the sense that, like him, they are very bad observers of nature and actually wish to deduce theses very quickly in their quiet little room, then good night with all natural law.

        Besides the example of chewing gum, another thing came to my mind. Namely, just to chew something nutritious and immediately spit it out again. According to Feser, this should be a total perversion and disorder of the divine order.

        Preservation of mankind (in the sense of constantly producing offspring) versus preservation of one’s own auditory sense, a very important sense associated with reason. For me personally, the latter is clearly more important and more significant, this is my own individual opinion. Feser won’t be able to change my mind. So, if I accept natural law, cleaning the ears with cotton swabs would be the greater sin for me than a coitus interruptus (which still has some sperm released into the vagina). And for me, coitus interruptus is basically like any other contraceptive that only differs in pregnancy likelihood.

        When I masturbate, I may wish that a woman would join me and perform the sexual act with me, only the external circumstances do not allow it in this case. Is this my fault? It’s like the temporary steriles, they also can’ t be blamed for it.

        For the determination of “other than” and “contrary to”, Feser should commit himself to one meaning. Is the criterion solely the intention or solely the realization of a defective natural order? Either or!

        Getting drunk is a devastating act against one’s own rational nature, according to the Thomists. One should please explain this to the Catholic Bavarians, who like to have one too many.

        If there were not 2000 years of Christian agitation against sexuality and against suicide, then perhaps there would at most be a very liberal natural law.

        The only good thing Aristotle thought up was that he took the individual as real and considered it worthy of philosophical consideration. In my opinion, that’s all. Also the ethics of the middle way is not bad.

        Aristotle is the absolute anti-language philosopher who believed that his Greek perfectly depicted reality in every detail. Today such a view would no longer be excusable.

        Do Catholics believe that Jesus was basically an Aristotelian? If at all, Jesus had been more influenced by Neoplatonic and Cynical philosophy.

      15. Natural Law Theory and the “Is”–“Ought” Problem: A Critique of Four Solutions by Shalina Stilley

        https://epublications.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1059&context=dissertations_mu

        „Can returning to an Aristotelian-Thomistic understanding of the essence of the human person—in the way suggested by the philosophers discussed above—enable us to derive a moral, prescriptive, determinate, categorical, and egalitarian Ought?“

        From page 119 it is interesting, although the author is very benevolent towards the treatment of that problem by traditional Thomists. I see the problem much more severely.

        1. Is the Ought Moral?

        That’s interesting: „Lisska, for example, admits that ―Aquinas was almost agnostic about this possibility of knowing essences…“ „Lisska cites the following passages from Aquinas: ―The essential principles of things are unknown to us.‖ (De Anima I lec. 13) ―Essential differences are unknown to us.‖ (De Veritate, q. 4 a. I ad. 8) ―We are ignorant of many of the properties of sensible things, and in many cases we are unable to discover the proper nature even of those properties that we perceive by the senses.‖ (Summa contra Gentiles, I, 3)“

      16. Oooh, very nice find!

      17. theanarchistlibrary.org/library/iain-macsaorsa-the-myth-of-natural-law

        „In response to the example of walking on one’s hands, Aquinas claims that “man’s good is not much opposed by such inordinate use”; homosexual acts, by contrast, undermine the great good of procreation. Th ere are two problems with this response. The first is that it is by no means clear that procreation is the only legitimate good achieved in sex, or that it is morally necessary for every sexual act to aim at it. Heterosexual couples oft en have sex even when they don’t want children, don’t want more children, or can’t have children. Most people recognize that sex has other valuable purposes, including the expression of affection; the pursuit of mutual pleasure; and the building, replenishing, and celebrating of a special kind of intimacy. In order to maintain Aquinas’s position, one would have to contend either that those purposes are not genuine goods or that homosexual acts cannot achieve them. These contentions both seem false on their face, although I’ll address them at greater length when I discuss the “new” natural law theorists below. The second problem is that the failure to pursue a good—in this case, procreation—is not equivalent to undermining or attacking that good. Aquinas himself was a celibate monk, aft er all. As the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham sharply observed over 200 years ago, if gays should be burned at the stake for the failure to procreate, then “monks ought to be roasted alive by a slow fire.” The issue of celibacy aside, there are plenty of heterosexuals who procreate abundantly while also occasionally enjoying, say, mutual masturbation or oral sex to orgasm. Such persons can hardly be said to undermine the good of procreation any more than Aquinas himself did.“ (John Corvino – What’s Wrong with Homosexuality)

        „Aquinas considered that from a general principle, such as the need to propagate the species, detailed rules can be deduced such as the need for monogamy and the education of children. However, it would be possible to challenge Aquinas on the first of these – by saying that, for instance, it is not self-evident that monogamy is the best way of propagating the species. Aquinas’ method is to begin with a general injunction that good is to be sought and evil avoided and then to unpack these by means of subsidiary principles (or perhaps assumptions would be a better word – although some might challenge this) that become more and more specific. It is not, however, a mere deduction of specific principles from general ones – at each stage Aquinas considers that the contemplation of human nature and its ends is required. The problem is that at every stage the judgements being made may be challenged and there may be assumptions that govern the law that is deduced which may not be generally accepted. As an example, one might start with the general principle of propagation and then move to monogamy (although even this step might be challenged). One could then look at genital organs and consider their purpose – if their purpose is decided to be for procreation, then any use of these organs for other purposes such as pleasure (through masturbation, genital homosexuality or conventional sex using contraception) would be held to be wrong because they go against the intended purpose for these organs. However, who is to define the purpose? If, as part of the function of genital organs, one included as the purpose ‘that they are intended so that two people who love each other should be able to express their love and obtain pleasure in doing so and that propagation might, when appropriate, thereby take place’ then one might rule out masturbation and homosexuality, but not sexual foreplay or even adultery. Other functions might give different purposes. For instance is the purpose of a mouth for eating or for kissing or for both? Who is to decide? If kissing is part of the function of mouths, then kissing would become a good rather than, arguably, an evil. The need to make assumptions which may be challenged is, therefore, implicit in Aquinas’ whole approach and weakens its effectiveness. It may also be argued that Aquinas’ approach is not holistic – it fails to consider the human being as a psycho-physical unit. To separate, for instance, genitalia out as having a particular purpose on their own without considering the whole complexity of a person’s relationship to his or her body, psychology, sexuality in general, the ability of human beings as embodied persons to express and receive love and to come to their full humanity may be a diminution of human beings as people. We are not an accumulation of ‘bits’ – we are whole human persons and all moral judgements must take our complexity as human persons into account. Aquinas considered that the feudal order of society of his time – with Kings, barons, knights, freemen and serfs – was the natural order. He was conditioned by his culture just as we may be conditioned by ours. It is far from easy to determine the function or purpose of different human organs or of society without being influenced by one’s own preconceptions. Aquinas believed that all human beings have a fixed, uniform human nature – this led him to maintain that there was a fixed natural law (subject to the differentiation between primary and secondary precepts above) for human beings. It may be argued that human beings do not have a single human nature and that the moral law may vary over time – in this case the whole idea of natural law may be challenged (this goes against the quote from Cicero at the beginning of this chapter). As an example, if there is held to be a single human nature then all human beings ‘should’ (according to their nature if it is ‘correctly’ ordered) be heterosexually inclined. If, therefore, someone was homosexually inclined (say due to a difference in genetic make-up) then this would be a disorder in their nature – their nature would be ‘faulty’ in that it was not what it ‘should’ be. This is one reason why Roman Catholic approaches to homosexuality tend to be clear cut – although Catholic theologians draw a distinction between an inclination which may be due to faulty genetic make-up and practising homosexuality which is due to a free decision and is therefore morally blameworthy. Against this it may be held that there is no single human nature – that some people are, for instance, homosexually inclined and others are not and this in itself is neither right nor wrong. In this case the issue may be more about how individuals should use their sexuality given their make-up rather than conformity to a specific human nature. Recent scientific studies have shown that homosexual tendencies may well be genetic. It could be (and there is no evidence for this) that in the face of an overcrowded world, nature produces an increase in those genes which direct sexual activity away from procreation. Aquinas would have difficulty coping with such a possibility. The natural law approach to morality is much more flexible than is generally supposed. M. J. Longford (The Good and the True – An introduction to Christian ethics, SCM Press, 1985, p. 204) puts it like this: It is true that Aquinas did also appear to hold some absolute moral rules, such as the one that disallowed lying … but this is not what is stressed in the account of natural law … His overall position is that there are what are called ‘primary precepts’ which are exceedingly general (such as the duty to worship God, and to love one’s neighbour) and ‘secondary precepts’ which are more specific, such as the duty to have only one husband or wife. However, the secondary precepts all have to be interpreted in the context of the situation, and it is here that the flexibility of natural law arises. At one point [Aquinas] argues as follows: ‘The first principles of natural law are altogether unalterable. But its secondary precepts … though they are unalterable in the majority of cases … can nevertheless be changed on some particular and rare occasions …’ … Aquinas argues, ‘The more you descend into the details the more it appears how the general rule admits of exceptions, so that you have to hedge it with cautions and qualifications.’ This is an important qualification and shows that there may be more flexibility in the natural law approach than is often supposed. It may also open the door to a natural law approach to morality coming together with situation ethics (see ch. 10) – for instance through a form of proportionalism. Whereas Aquinas is firm in his insistence on the primary precepts of natural law, he seems to show more flexibility when discussing the secondary precepts which ‘unpack’ these and sometimes modern supporters of a natural law approach to ethics do not sufficiently recognise this.“ (Vardy, Peter. The Puzzle of Ethics)

        „In an early work (Summa contra gentiles 3.122) Saint Thomas had predicated his objection to homosexual activity not on animal sexuality but on an argument which many later theologians were to seize upon in regard both to contraception and” unnatural” sex acts-that semen and its ejaculation were intended by “nature” to produce children, and that any other use of them was” contrary to nature” and hence sinful, since the design of” nature” represented the will of God. Unlike later writers, however, Saint Thomas realized that this argument had fatal flaws. He himself raised the question of other” misuses” of “nature’s” design. Is it sinful for a man to walk on his hands, when” nature” has clearly designed the feet for this purpose? Or is it morally wrong to use the feet for something (e.g., pedaling an organ) which the hands ordinarily do? To obviate this difficulty, he shifted ground and tacitly recognized that it was not the misuse of the organs involved which comprised the sin but the fact that through the act in question the propagation of the human species was impeded. This line of reasoning was of course based on an ethical premise-that the physical increase of the human species constitutes a major moral good which bore no relation to any New Testament or early Christian authority and which had been specifically rejected by Saint Augustine. Moreover, it contradicted Aquinas’s own teachings. Nocturnal emissions” impede” the increase of the human race in precisely the same way as homosexuality-i.e., by expending semen to no procreative purpose-and yet Aquinas not only considered them inherently sinless but the result of “natural” causes. And voluntary virginity, which Aquinas and others considered the crowning
        Christian virtue (Summa theologiae 2a.2ae.151, 152), so clearly operated to the detriment of the species in this regard that he very specifically argued in its defense that individual humans are not obliged to contribute to the increase or preservation of the species through procreation; it is only the race as a whole which is so obligated. Because of this, Aquinas found it necessary to shift ground again in formulating theological opposition to sexual nonconformity in his major and most influential moral treatise, the Summa theologiae. There are three substantive comments on homosexuality in the Summa. In the last and best known of these Aquinas discusses under two headings (I) whether “vices against nature” constitute a species of lust (he concludes they do) and (2) whether they are the most sinful species of lust (they are). “Vices against nature” include masturbation, intercourse with animals, homosexual intercourse, and nonprocreative heterosexual coitus. Although nature is defined elsewhere in the Summa in many different, sometimes conflicting ways, ranging from” the order of creation” to “the principle of intrinsic motion,” no definition is provided here for the “nature” these sins are against, and all common conceptions of “nature” are missing from or excluded by the particulars of the discussion. “Animal” sexuality is opposed to the “natural” at one point, and no other sense of “nature” suggested would apply any more to homosexual acts than to procreative extramarital sexuality. Although at one point he does remark that the potentially procreative types of lust discussed earlier under” fornication” and “adultery”, do not ” violate human nature,” this is directly contradicted by his assertion in the treatment of “fornication” that “it is against human nature to engage in promiscuous intercourse.” Indeed, as he subsequently admits, not only are all sexual sins “unnatural,” but all sins of any sort are” unnatural.” The” natural” in this section is in fact simply the” moral”; and it seems circular, to say the least, to argue that homosexual acts are immoral because they are immoral.“ (John Boswell – Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality)

      18. Oooh, excellent link!

      19. „I. PROBLEMS WITH AN INTUITIONIST DEFENSE OF MORAL ABSOLUTES
        In principle, one could appeal to intuition to support an alleged moral absolute against the use of general anesthesia or any drug that renders one unconscious and therefore unable to know, will, or sense pain. In an analogy with Anscombe’s rejection of contraceptive sexual acts, one could begin by observing that there is nothing wrong with natural states of unconsciousness and dullness to pain: wake-sleep cycles are completely natural (akin to cycles of fertility and infertility), and certain activities naturally produce endorphins that
        offer some resistance to pain. However, intentionally and artificially inducing a state of complete unconsciousness and deadness to pain is contrary to nature. To continue with the analogy, we could assert that although the primary means of knowing the intrinsic wrongness of anesthesia is through intuition
        or mystical perception, we can also offer two kinds of supplementary considerations. First, such a prohibition would be generally useful insofar as consciousness- and pain-reducing drugs (including barbiturates and opioids) are widely abused, leading to addictions, ruined lives, and crime; thus, following our general prohibition on anesthetics would spare people significant misery. Second, we could assert that without an absolute prohibition against anesthesia, we are left without a moral compass: choosing to use barbiturates or opioids would then become a matter of attitudes and motives, as say, with cut flowers. Who could then say whether it is more legitimate to seek freedom from consciousness and pain during surgery than
        during a period of intense grief or even for recreation? Of course, such arguments are not made by natural law philosophers. In fact, the matter of anesthesia is rarely addressed, and when it is, it is typically ad dressed as a prudential matter. One of few natural law philosophers to address explicitly the matter of anesthesia (even if only in passing) is Professor Geach, Elizabeth Anscombe’s husband, and collaborator in the revival of virtue ethics. While discussing “ temperance ” in his book, The Virtues , Peter Geach writes,

        If it were a duty to be mentally as much alert as possible for as long as possible,
        this might speak against any consumption of alcohol at all. But of course there is no
        such duty. … Aquinas has remarked that it is a precept of reason that the exercise of
        reason should be intermitted; in sleep, and again in the sex act, this is quite normally
        the case; and again, there is nothing immoral in taking sleeping-pills or having a
        doctor give you anaesthetics for an operation. ( Geach, 1977 , p. 134)

        We are nowhere told why the intermittency of fertility is not normative for those who would artificially induce periods of infertility, whereas the intermittency of consciousness is normative for those who would intentionally induce states of unconsciousness; nor why contraceptive acts are to be labeled counter-natural, whereas anesthetic acts simply and legitimately mimic nature’s own cycles. (JAMES M . DUBOIS – Is Anesthesia Intrinsically Wrong – On Moral Absolutes and Natural Law Methodology)“

        „Is reason the only operation that is distinctively human and hence specifically natural to man? Consider the following: using an opposable thumb; being capable of lying, cheating, and stealing; following out the will to power;nand, if we believe Freud, laboring under an Oedipus and Electra complex. Each of these modes of operation pertains only to human beings; and on at least some plausible theories of human nature, they pertain to all human beings. This is, of course, a very old point. Let me remind you of what Plato had Glaucon say in the second book of the Republic: That “by nature all [human] beings pursue as good their own selfaggrandizement [pleonexian]” so that for all men “by nature, to commit injustice is good.” Hence, if man’s good is identified with his nature in the sense of his distinctive mode of functioning, then we shall have to say that man’s good consists in his self-aggrandizement or his pursuit of the will to power or his acting out the Oedipus or Electra complexes, and so forth. But these versions of man’s good, and the accompanying precepts, are, of course, very different from those upheld by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. We therefore get results that are both indeterminate and morally unacceptable.“ „ALAN GEWIRTH – THE ONTOLQGICAL BASIS OF NATURAL LAW: A CRITIQUE AND AN ALTERNATIVE“

        „It may seem, though, that the Aristotelian notion of telos depends very much on the idea that species are eternal forms which are not subject to change. In contrast to Aristotle we know today – or think we know – that species are not natural kinds. Rather, the notion of species is a convenient classification, and not a biological reality. It helps us to bring some order into the world of living organisms, but the “real world consists only of individuals who are more or less closely related to each other by virtue of descent from one or more common ancestors”. Species change and evolve, with the effect that neither diachronically nor synchronically can we always determine to which species a certain individual belongs. Nor is reproduction only possible between individuals which are said to belong to the same species.“ […] „At any rate, the good Aristotle talks about is not the good of the species, but the good of an individual.“ (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1351104/#R33)

      20. „Pubic hair has a job to do – stop shaving and leave it alone“ (theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/07/pubic-hair-has-job-stop-shaving)
        Now one should imagine that this sentence is stated by God. You could also describe the act of shaving very dramatically. That means the complete shaving of the pubic hair is a deeply perverting act against nature, it is the temporary destruction of a function, therefore royally “contrary to”. If someone like Feser doubts the existence of this function, which is assumed by many experts, he takes an extremely big moral risk in case of a shave.

        Two scenarios in which love more or less does not exist: First, a man deliberately seeks sterile women in order to satisfy his sex appetite without using a condom and without the possibility of fertilisation. This man should not act any differently in the natural law sense than someone who goes on a hunt for fertile women using condoms. Secondly, a man is in a marriage, but does not want any more children, he only tries to use the temporarily sterile natural phases of his wife for sex. Now the man learns that his wife will not be able to conceive for quite a while due to a medical intervention or treatment. This is one hundred percent certain. The man is now very happy, he can have sex without running the risk of having another child, which he could not care for properly anyway at the moment due to financial reasons. And he doesn’t have to look annoyed at the fertility calendar anymore. In both cases the intention is the same, there is the same sexual external order of the body parts and also the negative result is identical. The only difference is marriage in the second case. If this legitimizing criterion of marriage is not tenable, all natural law in the realm of sex collapses like little dominoes step by step.

        A: Why am I not allowed to undermine procreation during sex and why do I have to go for it? B: Because procreation is important. A: And why is procreation important? B: Because sex is aimed at procreation.

        A: Why is frustrating the function of sex wrong? B: Because the function of sex is preserving the species. A: Why is the preservation of the species so important? A: Because the function of sex is preserving the species.

        The extra reference to the conservation of the human species is therefore not particularly informative, it is rather circular.

        A comparison of the digestive and procreative functions. We want to see everything conservatively. The digestive function also includes the crushing mastication. The sex excitation function belongs to the procreative function. I just want to have fun with these two functions. That is, I don’t want to eat anything and I don’t want a child either. So I’d like to avoid these. Now there is something rubbery in my two actions. This rubber stuff leads to the fact that the goals of the functions cannot be achieved. So neither digestion nor procreation. I had to deliberately neglect the functions for the sake of pure fun. In both cases I activate a natural faculty without respecting its function. The realization of the goal of both functions is undermined in a deliberate way. The condom puts the activated reproductive ability somehow into a certain non-recurring and one-time run into emptiness. The chewing gum does the same to some extent, but as a continuous idle run. If you look at it generally, which one should do philosophically, then there is no difference between the two cases. Chewing up and swallowing down does not occur, but this should normally be the case when the nutritional function is activated. And ejaculation in the vagina does not occur either, which should also happen when the reproductive function is in progress. The chewing gum in the mouth is analogous to the sperm in the condom. Or rather, keeping the chewing gum in your mouth instead of spitting it out as something indigestible and continuing to chew it is analogous to ejaculating into the condom. I should not have put chewing gum in my mouth from the outset to chew it pleasurably, because it is not digestible and is therefore contrary to nature. So in both cases I want to use a natural faculty to achieve a certain end, but which end is not the natural end. In order to achieve that particular end, I must avoid the realization of the real natural end. If one does not agree with this analogy, then the following applies: The swallowing of chewed and saliva-moistened food into the stomach is comparable to ejaculating in the vagina. Hence: The mere chewing of food and the immediate spitting out of it is like ejaculating into a condom. Both cases should be given equal moral weight. The interesting thing is that for our moral sense it’s enough to spit out the food if it doesn’t taste good at all. A completely trivial reason justifies the total perversion. The same should apply to the sex act. To sum up: Activation of the food intake system. Avoidance of the system purpose with the help of chewing gum. Activation of the ejaculation system. Avoidance of the purpose of this system by using a condom.

        What would the natural lawyer say to that?

        „Orgasm and ejaculation are two totally different processes. This means that as a man you can have an orgasm but not ejaculate.“

        health24.com/Sex/Problems/Sexual-superhero-orgasm-and-ejaculation-20120721

        How about that? With the man who, through pure erotic fantasy, can bring himself to ejaculate without somehow physically touching himself. Is anything perverted here. You can have fantasies, and ejaculation is more of a physical side effect.

        Anyone who cleans their ears a little with cotton swabs and knows that experts advise against it, does not want to work contrary to the natural cleaning process of the ears, but
        rather wants to help them on their way. The statements of the experts are not taken very seriously then. Who would have the intention to damage a physical process with the cotton swabs (in contrast to), and who would have an other purpose than the cleaning like sensual ear tickle with the
        help of the swabs?

        If I am allowed to wear glasses to improve my vision, I may also artificially transport my semen to an assisted fertilization device. This means that I do not necessarily have to ejaculate in the vagina. But is my sperm so valuable that I somehow have to get it quickly from that device into a vagina before it dries out completely and dies? Can’t I just bring new semen into the vagina at a later time, on another day or in another year?

        „But to speak of the purposefulness of living beings is a hopeless tautology. Life is explained by expediency [final causes] and expediency [final causes] by life. This becomes quite palpable when one uses the seemingly scientific word organism for the common word life. A living being is called an organism because organs work together in it, no matter whether one only wants to understand the bigger tissue complexes, which perform a common service (?), or the microscopic cells according to the latest linguistic usage. The definition always boils down to the fact that the organs are the cause of life and that at the same time they have their purposeful cause in the living whole. At least two of these three expressions are worthless because each of them can only be defined with the help of the other two. Life becomes comprehensible neither by purpose nor by organism; expediency neither by living nor by organic. And so on. What we call our thinking is a sequence of tautologies, of logologies.“ (Fritz Mauthner – Wörterbuch der Philosophie)

        On the aspect of evolution: Anyone who wants to understand an organism in its development and in its specific life expressions must understand the environment in which it lives. If we negate the formative elements of chance and the environment, we deprive ourselves of a decisive means of understanding even approximately the ‘riddle’ of life and the emergence of new life.

        Couldn’t Feser simply say that, for example, contraceptive sex is just bad sex and there’s nothing morally evil about it?

        When I am a man but behave like a sissy, I also violate natural law because I distance myself from the masculine form?

        Let’s assume that a man wants to use a condom to avoid possible procreation during sex. This is a clear bad intention for natural lawyers. But what if the intention is not successful, because the condom slips out, so that there is unhindered ejaculation in the vagina?

        According to Aristotle, man is a political and social being, i.e. a being that needs the state. Since man is so by nature, can it not be said that the requirements of the state determine the final cause and the interpretation of the principle of totality for all human actions? In some sense Aristotle saw it that way, for he has set the polis as a moral standard. Hegel then took this view to extremes.
        When I see a beetle or a turtle lying on its back and it cannot stand up by itself any more, the effort by it to turn around expresses a goal orientation which I can only interpret as God’s demand. Would there then be a moral „ought“ for me to intervene if I were present, especially if someone else (or even I myself) did this cruel deed on purpose? Or if a fly annoys me and it thereby only pursues its teleological nature, which must also be an expression of the divine will, and I kill the fly, as one of the gigantically many expressed wills of God, should no one really care? Why not?

        Teleology in the inorganic realm: Aristotle is just saying that things do what they do because that is the sort of things they do. Where’s the explanation in that?

        The motto of natural law, to conceive as many children as possible, completely ignores the ideas of ethics of responsibility.

        Wouldn’t it be reprehensible to prevent pain sensations through medication, since pain generally has an important function in a person’s life. How do I know which function is very important?

        „The Thomistic-Aristotelian conception of metaphysics is defective for a number of reasons. To begin with, Aristotelian metaphysics is rooted in a particular scientific conception of the world; namely, one in which the categories of teleological biology are primary. Once science departs from that model and embraces another such as Newtonian mechanism or even indeterminism, the metaphysics has become anachronistic. Reintroducing the teleology becomes a form of metaphysical slight-of-hand, in practice a form of obsessive natural theology condemned to potentially endless embarrassment, and intellectually a transparent anthropomorphic projection.“ (NICHOLAS CAPALDI – USING NATURAL LAW TO GUIDE PUBLIC – The Blind Leading the Deaf)

        „Third, the Thomistic-Aristotelian conception of metaphysics obfuscates the very nature of metaphysical discourse. In a kind of authoritarian and imperialistic way it declares itself the hegemonic proprietor of the very term ‘metaphysics’ so that not to be a Thomist is not to have a metaphysics at all. Much of value in the Augustinian-Platonic and neo-Platonic tradition has been neglected. Any survey of the history of the term ‘metaphysics’ will show not only that there are conflicting metaphysical positions but there are conflicting views about what metaphysics itself is. The meaning of the term ‘metaphysics’ is itself difficult to divorce from substantive metaphysical positions. Although this is an obstacle, it also tells us something important
        about the attempt to abstract form from substantive beliefs.
        Let us note a fourth defect of Aristotelian metaphysics. A static metaphysics that denies the possibility of new forms becomes in practice a defense of the status quo. Ptolemaic astronomy, feudalism, agrarianism, and the mindless opposition to market economies suddenly become features of Christianity rather than historical accidents. We soon forget that Christianity does not entail a particular economic or political system.
        A fifth defect of the Thomistic-Aristotelian metaphysical system is that it transforms morality into an intellectual exercise, the application of theory to practice or morality as the reflective observance of rules or ideals. Emphasis is put upon having a correct and defensible theory rather than on how to act. The ideals too quickly turn into obsessions. Inevitably moral sensibility is inhibited or even eroded in favor of an elaborate casuistry. The object seems to be to observe a rule instead of behaving in a certain concrete manner. It achieves the appearance of stability at the price of imperviousness to change. When change can no longer be resisted it occurs as a revolution rather than as an evolution. Obsession with rigid deductive structures and a preoccupation with logical systematicity has been destructive of both historical understanding and rational criticism.“ (NICHOLAS CAPALDI – USING NATURAL LAW TO GUIDE PUBLIC – The Blind Leading the Deaf)

        „Next, Thomism was presented as primarily an epistemological doctrine addressing the issues of modern epistemology generated by modern science. The trouble with this approach is that it is ultimately rooted in the same Aristotelian metaphysical tradition that is at the root of scientism. The commitment to the Aristotelian model of metaphysics effectively reinforces the scientific-naturalistic paradigm. What I mean by this is the following. It presumes first that there is an order or structure in nature independent of cognition; it presumes that human beings can grasp or abstract that structure in a purely naturalistic way since human beings are themselves a part of the natural order and to be understood largely in the same manner; finally, it presumes that a study of the natural order leads naturally to an understanding of the supernatural behind that order. The common philosophical assumption is that we first start with the intelligibility of nature and then move progressively to the understanding of ourselves and then God. It assumes that how we understand the world is primary and how we understand ourselves is secondary. It assumes that an understanding of God is gained through an understanding of the natural world. Christianity is reduced to the status of an ingenious hypothesis within the scientific game.“ (NICHOLAS CAPALDI – USING NATURAL LAW TO GUIDE PUBLIC – The Blind Leading the Deaf)

        According to the sociobiologist Robert Trivers, man has an innate natural ability to lie to himself in order to make his lie more credible to others. Trivers can support this thesis well. Would the Church deny this natural trait of man, or would she attribute all so-called „evil“ traits to sin? Unfortunately, I do not know. But what I do know: If the natural lawyer arbitrarily refers to the allegedly sinful part of man, an evasive maneuver would then take place.

        There is one possibility of deriving a ought, namley from the will of someone else. And I think it’s the only possibility to get an „ought“. Feser would have to go along with this train of thought in order to still be credible for me. Three translated quotations shall illustrate my point:
        “A good rule of thumb for understanding the practical “ought” is: Where a ought is, there is a will of someone else.” (my own translation, Peter Stemmer – Normativitat)
        And:
        „Ought expresses a necessity, which however is not given by objective (or as such seen) conditions, but always includes the will of a foreign entity (instance) (therefore: demand). The entity (instance) is usually a person who does not have to be named in the sentence, but as such is always clear (in the above examples: physician, author, legislator).“ (German grammar book, Buscha/Helbig)
        Finally:
        „And it is obvious that such a “ought” is therefore nothing but the synthetic result of the encounter of subjects, each of whom, as a conscious end in itself, is a conscious willing in relation to the other, and thus also a conscious demanding.“ (my own translation, Gerold Prauss – Moral und Recht nach Kant und Hegel)

    2. An argument for agnosticism: „If one likes, one may call such an exercise “natural reason proving God’s existence”. What has to be noticed is the fact that it is the ‘natural’ reason of a believer that is being exercised. Similarly, a Stratonician or a Flewian, attempting his disproof of God’s existence, may well achieve some valuable philosophical insights on the occasion of his refutations of theism, but he is exercising the natural reason of an unbeliever as such and his disproofs will convince only those who accept the first presumption. As a result of these exercises of ‘natural reason’ we only find that being a believer is incompatible with being an unbeliever and that a believer’s reason eventually arrives at views diametrically opposed to those to which an unbeliever comes when he exercises his reason. There is no reason which is nobody’s reason and which belongs, in Adam Smith’s phrase, to an ‘impartial spectator’. In this respect, there are no impartial spectators, nor are the differences between believers and unbelievers due to mistakes of logic on one side.“ (The conclusion of Velecky about the Thomistic 5 ways) (Lubor Velecky – The Five Ways)

      1. Criticism of the ambiguous statements of the Catholic Church: „Catholic theology may seem to be more forthright, but certainly not as forthright as most people suppose. An involuntarily amusing editorial in the Chicago diocesan newspaper, entitled “Yes, Professor, There Is a Hell,” is not unrepresentative. Taking issue with an article that a professor had contributed to “a well- known magazine,” the editorial made a great point of the fact that it “is by no means the position of the Catholic Church” either “that ‘the great mass of mankind’ will be tormented for all eternity” or that “only those who are a part of the Christian communion will find salvation, whereas ‘the rest of mankind [will] suffer eternal torment.’ ” As it happened, the professor had not said that this was “the position of the Catholic Church.” But be that as it may, the editorial ends: “There is a hell, professor, and the easiest way to find out is by not believing in it, or in God.” This is a mere editorial, full of misrepresentations, and it would be foolish to saddle the church with it. What is typical about the editorial is the alternation of protestations of liberality with threats. One does not usually find both so close together; but the two strains are almost omnipresent contemporary Catholicism. On the one hand, scholarship insists that “though a few individual teachers of the Church may have held this, it has never been regarded as a matter of the Church’s teaching”; on the other hand, preaching requires threats and promises, As we listen to the preacher or the missionary, everything appears to be as clear as could be; but under the scholar’s or the critic’s questioning, this surface clarity gives way to endless complications and uncertainties. St. Thomas Aquinas, who will be considered in due course, was on the whole exceptionally clear; but the Catholic Church is not committed to his views. In his encyclical Aeterni Patris, Pope Leo XIII, in 1879, said: “As far as man is concerned, reason can now hardly rise higher than she rose, borne up in the flight of Thomas; and Faith can hardly gain more helps from reason than those which Thomas gave her.” He cited many previous popes who had spoken similarly of the saint: “Pius V acknowledged that heresies are confounded and exposed and scattered by his doctrine, and that by it the whole world is daily freed from pestilent errors.” And, “The words of Blessed Urban V to the University of Toulouse seem to be most worthy of mention: ‘It is our will, and by the authority of these letters we enjoin you, that you follow the doctrine of Blessed Thomas as true. . . .’ ” And the encyclical cites “as a crown, the testimony of Innocent VI: ‘His doctrine above all other doctrine, with the one exception of the Holy Scriptures, has . . . such a truth of opinions, that no one who holds it will ever be found to have strayed from the path of truth. . . .’ ” From all this, one might conclude that the pope, speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals, and therefore infallibly, had taught us that we shall not stray from truth if we accept St. Thomas’ view that the blessed in heaven will see the punishments of the damned so that their bliss will be that much greater. Or that one angel can speak to another without letting other angels know what he is saying. One might even suppose that his views on scientific matters are invariably true. But Leo XIII also says, in the same long encyclical: “We, therefore, while we declare that everything wisely said should be received with willing and glad mind, . . . exhort all of you, Venerable Brothers, with the greatest earnestness to restore the golden wisdom of St. Thomas, and to spend it as far as you can. . . . We say the wisdom of St. Thomas; for it is not by any means in our mind to set before this age, as a standard, those things which have been inquired into by Scholastic Doctors with too great subtlety; or anything taught by them with too little consideration, not agreeing with the investigations of a later age; or, lastly, anything that is not probable.” In a similar spirit, Étienne Gilson, one of the most outstanding Thomists of the twentieth century, says at the outset of The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Personally, I do not say of Thomas that he was right, but that he is right.” But this does not prevent him from admitting now and then in passing, without emphasis, that Thomas was not right. Moreover, many Catholic scholars have argued at length that papal encyclicals are not necessarily infallible. Father Thomas Peguès, for example, has tried to show in an article in Revue Thomiste, which is quoted in Anne Fremantle’s edition of The Papal Encyclicals in Their Historical Context, that their authority is not infallible but “in a sense, sovereign.” While “the solemn definitions ex cathedra . . . demand an assent without reservation and make a formal act of faith obligatory,” in the case of the encyclicals only “an internal mental assent is demanded.” There is never a lack of surface clarity; but if one is genuinely perplexed, the apparently neat conceptual distinctions are not always very helpful; and having accused Protestant theologians of a failure to let their No be a No, I see no reason for not bringing the same charge against Catholic theologians. In an essay on “How to Read the Encyclicals,” in The Church Speaks to the Modern World: The Social Teachings of Leo XIII, Gilson says: “When one of us objects to the pretension avowed by the Popes to state, with full authority, what is true and what is false, or what is right and what is wrong, he is pitting his own personal judgment, not against the personal judgment of another man, but against the whole ordinary teaching of the Catholic Church. . . . The Church alone represents the point of view of a moral and spiritual authority free from all prejudices.” Clearly, we are being discouraged from saying No to authoritative pronouncements. That, however, does not necessarily mean that everybody has to agree. Where the heretic would say No, the theologian interprets. “When it seems to us that an encyclical cannot possibly say what it says, the first thing to do is to make a new effort to understand what it does actually say,” says Gilson. And what texts “actually” say is often very different from what they seem to say. In the first of the three volumes of Five Centuries of Religion, G. G. Coulton, the great historian, relates how “the Catechism of the Council of Trent, drawn up by a papal commission as an unerring guide to priests and their flocks lays it down that unbaptized infants, ‘be their parents Christian or infidel, are born to eternal misery and perdition’ (authorized translation by Professor Donovan, Manchester, 1855, p. 167; Of Baptism, quest. XXX ). For the arguments by which the Roman Church of today has persuaded itself that these words mean ‘they will eternally enjoy a state of perfect natural happiness,’ I must refer my readers to my 16th Medieval Study [i.e., Infant Perdition in the Middle Ages], or to the Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. Limbo” (443). The original Latin words of the Catechism are: sempiternam miseriam et interitum. In his monograph on Infant Perdition, Coulton, who concerns himself only with Roman Catholic theology and not with theology in general, offers this comment: “It is strange that theologians who juggle thus with language should never suspect the double- edged nature of the tools they are using. The anonymous champion of the Catholic Truth Society thinks that, if I had been more familiar with Catholic ways of thought, I should have seen at once that the ‘eternal misery and destruction’ of the Council of Trent means eternal and perfect natural happiness. But what is to prevent a later and more learned generation of Catholics from discovering that the ‘perfect natural happiness’ of the Catholic Encyclopedia really means eternal misery and destruction? Even in theology, it is fatal when we can no longer trust a man’s word. . . .”. What Coulton takes for a special vice of the Roman Catholic church is really of the essence of theology, as the many illustrations from Protestant theologians in this chapter should show. If I concentrate more than is usually done on the Christian conception of hell, this is because no other aspect of God’s “relations with man and the universe” is anywhere near so important for us. If there is a possibility, perhaps even a probability, that God may consign us or some of our fellow men to eternal misery, it is certainly the very height of irresponsibility to sweep the relevant doctrines under the rug. By seeing, on the other hand, how theologians deal with this most crucial question, we stand an excellent chance of finding out just how much knowledge is available concerning God’s “relations with man and the universe,” and what methods theologians use to obtain such knowledge.
        At the end of This Is Catholicism (1959), John Walsh, S.J., reprints an important document which
        he introduces thus: “All the principal beliefs of Catholicism are summed up in the Profession of
        Faith which is made by converts on their entrance into the Catholic Church and by all candidates for
        the priesthood before ordination. It is a fitting conclusion for this book.” Here a great many beliefs
        are summarized succinctly in less than three pages. The final paragraph begins: “This true Catholic
        faith, outside of which no one can be saved. . . .” A few pages earlier, in the body of the book, we
        are also told that “membership in the Catholic Church, the mystical body of Christ, is the solitary
        means of salvation. Apart from the Church, exclusive of it, independently of it, there exists
        absolutely no possibility of attaining heaven.” This is the kind of forthright, unequivocal doctrine
        that at first glance seems to make it utterly unfair to claim that Catholic theologians, like Protestant
        theologians, disregard Jesus’ commandment, in the Sermon on the Mount, that we should let our
        Yes be Yes, and our No, No; “anything more than this comes from evil.” Immediately, however,
        Father Walsh asks: “Does this signify that all who are not actually members of the Catholic Church
        will be lost?” and in conformity with contemporary Catholic doctrine he replies: “Certainly not.”
        This is explained as follows: “When a person . . . makes an act of perfect contrition, he must
        simultaneously determine, as we saw, to accomplish everything which he judges necessary to attain salvation. Now since the Catholic Church is, in fact, the sole means of salvation, a non- Catholic’s resolve to do everything needful to gain heaven is, objectively considered, exactly equivalent to a resolve to belong to the Catholic Church. The two resolves automatically merge; one coincides with the other. A non- Catholic is unaware, certainly, of the identity of the two. . . . He may never have heard of the Catholic Church. Or he may . . . be quite indifferent to it. Or . . . he may be quite hostile to it and consequently would indignantly deny that his desire to please God coalesced in any way, shape, or fashion with a desire to join Catholicism. Such subjective misapprehensions on his part would not alter the objective fact, however. A sincere desire for salvation coincides necessarily with a desire to belong to the Catholic Church. . . . Strange as it may seem, therefore, a non- Catholic who sincerely yearns to do everything necessary for salvation (even when he believes that one of the requisites for salvation is to condemn Catholicism!) ( John 16:2) is, all unconsciously, longing to be a Catholic. Now this unconscious longing God recognizes as a substitute for belonging . . . as the equivalent of real membership.” So the doctrine “still stands: outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation.” (Walter A. Kaufmann – The Faith of a Heretic)

      2. Criticism of Aquinas: „There remains yet another feature which distinguished Thomas from all other theologians: the vastness of the edifice he built. You look at his five ways of proving God’s existence, in Part One of the Summa, Question 2, and suppose perhaps that they are on a par with other proofs, like Plato’s, for example. Pleased, you notice how small they are, how little space they take: less than two pages for the five of them. They are not padded with persuasion like so much contemporary literature, and they are not inflated with so many illustrations that you lose the thread. There they stand, small, separate, and quite distinct, like five fine figures over a cathedral portal. Perhaps you become absorbed in the first proof, which Thomas himself calls “more manifest.” Its first premise could not be simpler: “It is certain and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion.” Already you are half prepared to assent to the conclusion. It is all so straightforward. The second premise seems hardly less simple: “Whatever is moved is moved by another.” Just before you accept that, too, you recall that Plato in his proof of gods arrived at just the opposite conclusion: there were souls that moved themselves, and they turned out to be the gods whose existence Plato tried to demonstrate. Is Thomas trying to put something over on us? Far from it, he immediately produces a subsidiary argument to prove his second premise by way of reflections on potentiality and actuality. We become involved in Thomas’ metaphysics, in his adaptation of Aristotle. Should we still go along? Suppose we do, tentatively, just to see what lies ahead. Having shown, or tried to show, that “whatever is moved must be moved by another,” Thomas continues: “this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover, seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are moved by the first mover.” And he concludes: “Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.” The last seven words recur with only minor variations at the end of all five arguments. At first it seems that with these words logical argument has been forsaken and Aquinas merely states what is at best a historic fact. You feel, Aquinas might have added: and if anyone does not understand this to be God, we burn him. There are many difficulties here. On the face of it, the conclusion seems to contradict the second premise: have we not after all arrived at a being that moves itself, like Plato’s gods? As you read on in the Summa, you find what you may have suspected on the basis of your knowledge of Aristotle: there is no contradiction. Aquinas’ God, like Aristotle’s first movers, is unmoved. But Aristotle used this argument in his Metaphysics, from which Thomas has derived it, to infer the existence of over forty unmoved movers. Is not Thomas arbitrary in supposing that there is but one? Later in the Summa, he tries to show why there can be only one god. But why call this one god “God”? From a Christian point o£ view even Aristotle’s god is not at all godlike: unmoved, he contemplates his own thoughts, unmindful of the world which he did not create, moving the things in the world by attraction, “as the beloved” moves the lover. Aristotle’s god does not love. He is utterly unmoved, like a statue of a Buddha lost in contemplation that moves us to contemplate him. But in the following pages of the Summa, Aquinas, bit by bit, tries to prove that the unmoved mover of his first proof has the qualities which the church associates with the Christian God. Most of the objections to this first proof are thus discussed elsewhere; and, to see if they have really been taken care of, you have to scrutinize other parts of the system: the apparently so short, clear, and distinct proof that seemed self-sufficient turns out to be part of a vast structure, like a plant with deep roots that spread through the surrounding soil. Can you not believe in an infinite regress instead of a first mover? Thomas is willing to grant temporarily, for the sake of the argument, that the world was not created but is eternal. Even then, when you do not postulate any beginning in time and are willing to go back endlessly horizontally, there must yet be, as Thomas sees it, a first mover that, vertically, as it were, underlies the whole series of movements. What at first seemed to be a simple proof is in fact a world view in miniature, an image of the world projected onto half a page. Is it a proof of God’s existence which, taken by itself, compels assent, quite independent of what we may think of Thomas’ metaphysics or the remainder of his system? Definitely not. Did Thomas think it was? He says emphatically before he begins: “The existence of God can be proved in five ways.” And shortly before that, he says the same thing several times. He also rejects St. Anselm’s so-called ontological argument. So it seems that he considers his own proofs compelling. Thomas assumed not only that where Aristotle, as interpreted by him, agreed with Scripture, as interpreted by him, Aristotle must be right, but also that in such cases human reason, unaided by revelation, could evidently demonstrate the truth. But even if it were the case that Aristotle was right in all such instances, while Democritus and Lucretius, Spinoza, Hume, and Kant were wrong, it is assuredly not the case that on purely rational grounds we must accept Aristotle’s metaphysics—either in its original form or in its Thomistic version. At most, Aristotle’s metaphysics, as interpreted by Aquinas, presents one possible alternative for us; and at worst, this metaphysics has been refuted on a number of points by later philosophers. The Angelic Doctor does not only give reasons for believing in God; he also demonstrates the existence of angels, for example. As Gilson says in his latest book on Aquinas, “Some historians pass over in complete silence this part of St. Thomas’s work or at best dismiss it with a few allusions.” But the belief in angels is no more excrescence on the body of the system: “Angels are creatures whose existence can be demonstrated, In certain exceptional cases they have even been seen. To disregard them destroys the balance of the universe considered as a whole”—or at least of Thomas’ conception of the universe. “The nature and operation of inferior creatures, men for example, can only be well understood by comparison and contrast with angels.” In other words, Thomas’ conception of man depends on his belief in angels, and we cannot “omit the consideration of one whole order of creatures without up-setting the equilibrium of the system” (160). Clearly, it is also possible to give reasons for not believing, either by criticizing Thomas or by constructing a rival system without God or angels, or perhaps, as C. D. Broad comes close to doing in Religion, Philosophy and Psychical Research, without God but with angels. Confronted with Broad’s searching criticisms of “The Validity of Belief in a Personal God” and of “Arguments for the Existence of God” no less than with Thomas’ demonstrations, our faith might be corrupted. Hence the need for exterminating heretics and imposing censorship. Thomas believes that his own reasons are good and that his own beliefs are true, but the human reason alone, unaided by censorship and threats, may not see that Thomas’ reasons are better than those of heretics and that his beliefs are true while theirs are not.“ (Walter A. Kaufmann – Critique of Religion and Philosophy)

      3. This is my last contribution now. I won’t be dealing with philosophy for a while. It only gives you a headache. My contributions were only meant for those who wanted to have some arguments against Thomism at hand. They were never addressed to Thomists themselves, with whom a discussion also makes no sense. It would lead to nothing. Here still a few book recommendations:
        Walter A. Kaufmann – Critique of Religion and Philosophy
        Walter A. Kaufmann – The Faith of a Heretic
        Kenneth Humphreys – Jesus Never Existed
        J. L. Schellenberg – The Hiddenness Argument
        Ronald Dworkin – Religion without God
        Hector Garcia – Alpha God
        Joe Quirk – It’s Not You, It’s Biology
        Jonathan Haidt – The Righteous Mind Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
        John D. Caputo – On religion

        Feser insists so much that cause and effect are simultaneous. But if, according to Feser, the effect is also the telos, then his view seems to me to be problematic. Let’s assume that we have a finished sculpture in front of us. The finished sculpture is an effect, but the sculptor is no longer present. It is clear to us that prior to the finished sculpture, sculptural activities must have taken place. Sculpting as the cause must have preceded the finished sculpture as an effect. The sculptor as a person and the rough marble stone must of course, logically, have been in touch at the same time. But the activity of the sculptor with his current vague idea of the finished sculpture preceded this sculpture. Achieving an effect as a goal should actually take time. Feser also assumes accidental (i.e. successive) causal series. Here’s Schopenhauer’s idea on this philosophical problem:

        „According to the laws of causality and motivation, the ground must precede the consequent in time. This is absolutely essential, as I have demonstrated in detail in the 2nd volume of my principal work, ch. 4, pp. 41–2a to which I refer here so as not to repeat myself. Accordingly, one will not be misled by the example Kant cites (Critique of Pure Reason, 1st edn, p. 202; 5th edn, p. 248b), namely, that the cause of the warmth in a room, the stove, is simultaneous with its effect – as long as one considers that a thing is not the cause of another thing, but a state is the cause of another state. The state of the stove, that it has a higher temperature than the surroundings,c must precede the imparting of the excess heat to its surroundings; and now, since any heated layer of air is displaced by any colder layer of air streaming in, the first state, the cause, and, as a result, the second state, the effect, are renewed as long as the stove and the room are not of the same temperature. Thus here the stove and the warmth of the room are not persistent, simultaneous cause and effect, but a chain of alterations, or a continual renewal of the two states, one being the effect of the other. But from this example we can see how even Kant’s concept of causality was unclear.“

        „On the other hand, the absurd assertion of many professors of philosophy of our day that cause and effect are simultaneous can again be refuted by the fact that in cases where on account of its great rapidity the succession cannot be perceived at all, we nevertheless assume it with a priori certainty, and with it the lapse of a certain time. Thus, for example, we know that a certain time must elapse between the pressing of the trigger and the emission of the bullet, although we cannot perceive it. We know that this time must again be divided between several states appearing in a strictly definite succession, namely the pressure of the trigger, the striking of the spark, the ignition, the spreading of the fire, the explosion, and the departure of the bullet. No person has ever yet perceived this succession of states; but since we know which state brings about the other, we also know in precisely this way which state must precede the other in time, and consequently that during the course of the whole series a certain time elapses, although it is so short that it escapes our empirical apprehension. For no one will assert that the flying out of the bullet is actually simultaneous with the pressing of the trigger. Therefore not merely the law of causality, but also its relation to time, and the necessity of the succession of cause and effect, are known to us a priori. If we know which of two states is cause and which effect, we also know which state precedes the other in time. If, on the contrary, this is not known to us, but their causal relation in general is known, then we try to decide the succession empirically, and according to this determine which of the two states is cause and which effect. The falseness of the assertion that cause and effect are simultaneous appears moreover from the following consideration. An unbroken chain of causes and effects fills the whole of time. (For if this chain were interrupted, the world would stand still, or to set it in motion again an effect without a cause would have to appear.) Now if every effect were simultaneous with its cause, then every effect would be moved up into the time of its cause, and a chain of causes and effects with still the same number of links would fill no time at all, much less an infinite time, but the causes and effects would be all together in one moment. Therefore, on the assumption that cause and effect are simultaneous, the course of the world shrinks up into the business of a moment. This proof is analogous to the one that every sheet of paper must have a thickness, since otherwise a whole book would have no thickness. To state when the cause ceases and the effect begins is in almost all cases difficult, and often impossible. For the changes (in other words, the succession of states or conditions) are a continuum, like the time they fill; and therefore also like that time they are infinitely divisible. Their succession or sequence, however, is as necessarily determined and irreversible as is that of the moments of time itself, and each of them with reference to the one preceding it is called “effect,” and with reference to the one succeeding it, “cause.” Every change in the material world can appear only in so far as another change has immediately preceded it; this is the true and entire content of the law of causality. But in philosophy no concept has been more wrongly used than that of cause, by the favourite trick or blunder of conceiving it too widely, of taking it too generally, through abstract thinking. Since scholasticism, really in fact since Plato and Aristotle, philosophy has been for the most part a continued misuse of universal concepts, such as, for example, substance, ground, cause, the good, perfection, necessity, possibility, and very many others. A tendency of minds to operate with such abstract and too widely comprehended concepts has shown itself at almost all times. Ultimately it may be due to a certain indolence of the intellect, which finds it too onerous to be always controlling thought through perception. Gradually such unduly wide concepts are then used like algebraical symbols, and cast about here and there like them. In this way philosophizing degenerates into a mere combining, a kind of lengthy reckoning, which (like all reckoning and calculating) employs and requires only the lower faculties. In fact, there ultimately results from this a mere display of words, the most monstrous example of which is afforded us by mind-destroying Hegelism, where it is carried to the extent of pure nonsense. But scholasticism also often degenerated into word-juggling. In fact, even the Topi of Aristotle—very abstract principles, conceived with complete generality, which could be applied to subjects of the most different kind, and be brought into the field everywhere for arguing either pro or contra—also have their origin in that wrong use of universal concepts. We find innumerable examples of the way in which the scholastics worked with such abstractions in their writings, particularly those of Thomas Aquinas. But philosophy, down to the time of Locke and Kant, really pursued the path prepared by the scholastics; these two men at last turned their attention to the origin of concepts. (2nd volume of my principal work)“

      4. Thanks for your input, friend. Yeah, these days I feel the same about ‘engagement’ with Thomists, but your comments are very useful indeed.

      5. „Simultaneous Causes and Effects

        ‘Whenever someone is allowed to use two different meanings of a word that are so closely related, it makes it easy to throw such words in the mix.’

        Aristotle distinguished between what he termed accidental causality (cause preceding effect) and essential causality (one event seen in two ways).  For essential causality, Aristotle uses the example of a builder building a house. This single event can be analyzed into the builder building (cause) and the house being built (effect). The idea of essential causality has been used as a way for people to contrive free will, among other things. Such contrivances usually stem from a misunderstanding, or poorly thought out conclusions of essential causality. Let’s go back to the example of a builder building and the house being built. We can picture these two things. It appears that as the builder builds, the house is being built. These don’t happen one after another, but at the same time. Certainly we can’t say that the builder is building without the house being built. Hence the term essential, the house being built (by the builder) is essential to the builder building (the house), and vice versa. First, I would like to call out what this view of essential causality really entails. It entails the generalized grouping of a pile of accidental causes. It then takes that generalization and compares two inherent parts of it that happen simultaneously. So for example, it may categorize a man picking up a hammer and a nail, then swinging the hammer to hit the nail, and the nail going into a board, as “builder building.” And the nail going into a board hanging on the wall of a partially built house as “house being built.”  All of these individual events are causes and effects, with the causes prior to the effects, and we could, of course, break them down more into the real cause and effects that we don’t really see. The essential cause of the “builder building” and the “house being built” merely zooms out of space and time to grab a section of happenings and group them all into one event. It then focuses on two parts of the zoomed out block that are essential to each other, which happen within the same block of time. The “builder building” might happen in the block of time from time X to time Z, and the “house being built” would happen within that same timeframe. So from the perspective of viewing a block of action within a specific block of space and time, and categorizing such block as a single event, certainly we cannot separate out the categorizations. So how do some people use essential causality to contrive free will?  First, it allows them to disregard the type of causality most mean, even though this other usage is not the important usage for the free will debate. If they can say that the effect is simultaneous with the cause, they can conflate this with the type of causality the determinist or incompatibilist  may be talking about. Whenever someone is allowed to use two different meanings of a word that are so closely related, it makes it easy to throw such words in the mix. Especially when the person at the other end might not be familiar with the words “essential” and “accidental” as applied to causality. Another way it’s contrived is by suggesting that decisions can be “essentially caused” in the sense that a decision being made and the person deciding are essential to each other. It’s a way for them to frame that into what seems at first like an act of volition that is it’s very own internal cause. But this is a mistake. Even if we accept the idea of essential causality, that does not mean that something didn’t cause the builder building house/house being built in the first place. It does not allow us to frame the essential cause into something outside of what caused it. In my opinion, I don’t think that an essential cause should even be labeled a “cause.” Give it some other name to avoid confusion and conflation. If simultaneous, the only reason we can say that “the builder building” is the cause and the “house being built” is the effect is if we move into the actual causes and effects that show the progression: the accidental causes. Otherwise, if both were the cause and effect of each other,  we’d have to say “the house being built” is a cause of “the builder building.” Of course that’s counterintuitive. Why? Because we know the progression of those “accidental” causes. We know that the builder lifting up a hammer precedes the nail going in. If we didn’t, how could we possibly consider one a cause of the other, or consider that such a simultaneous event contains both a cause and effect within it? Rather it’s simply all the same event (builder building house/house being built) summed up within a given block of time. Yet there are some people with a wee bit o’ knowledge of these philosophical terms who will use them to their advantage as soon as someone talks about causality as it applies to free will. Don’t let them. It’s not pertinent and is just used to deflect the subject matter. Not only is essential causality not compatible with free will, when someone uses it for such a topic, they’re playing a shell game. They are trying to suggest to you that this type of causality plays a role in the usage of the term “cause” for the debate, when it doesn’t. As a side note, I’m also not a fan of the words “accidental” and “essential” to describe these different types of causes. Today, such words are way too ambiguous and easy to confuse with the common usage of such words. A common usage might, for example, imply that a cause (such as an essential cause) would have a purpose (not done on accident). Or that a cause that precedes its effect does so in some non-forced way (happens by accident). This isn’t what’s meant by these words. The effect of an accidental cause would be just as “essential” to it if we used the common usage of the word essential. Confusing words just muck up the water. I cannot stress enough the importance of clarity. It’s unfortunate that I have to use such words to even address them as something that shouldn’t be used for the free will topic. If I didn’t have more than one person try such a shell game with me, I would have left this brief chapter out entirely. I would never have thought it important enough to address. But due to my own causality, I decided it important to note these differences in the word “cause” to avoid any ambiguity and to prevent any detractors from going there.“

        Slattery, ‘Trick. Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind

      6. Strawson says, as I also think, that an essentialism in any form nullifies absolute responsibility without the causality principle of determinism having to be taken into account.

        An Interview with Galen Strawson (believermag.com/an-interview-with-galen-strawson/)
        „(1) You do what you do—in the circumstances in which you find yourself—because of the way you are. (2) So if you’re going to be ultimately responsible for what you do, you’re going to have to be ultimately responsible for the way you are—at least in certain mental respects. (3) But you can’t be ultimately responsible for the way you are (for the reasons just given). (4) So you can’t be ultimately responsible for what you do.“

        „Yes, although the step seems fairly clear when you look at it the right way. Sometimes people explain why No. 3 is true by saying that you can’t be causa sui—you can’t be the cause of yourself, you can’t be truly or ultimately self-made in any way.“

        “But the basic argument against ultimate moral responsibility works whether determinism is true or false.“

      7. No universal commandments can be derived from the possible purposefulness of human nature, no deontological morality can be derived from the functional structure of man’s nature, and it has to be said that the only one true human nature does not exist. At most, one can construct maxims for oneself from the way one’s own body ticks in order to become happier. But then the “language“ of the body is a consequentialist language and those maxims can only be recommended, not more.

        The Thomistic natural lawyer does not want to see the nature of man as the evolutionary psychologist sees it. Either the natural lawyer declares the statements of him to be false in a presumptuous and unfounded way, or he arbitrarily refers them to the allegedly sinful part of man. Here an evasive maneuver would then take place through the very vague concept of sin.

        Human sexuality is very complex: Flirting, falling in love, eroticism, touching of erogenous zones on the body, the mere hearing of the voice of the beloved and so on and so forth; so many abilities and organs (could) belong to sexuality. To say that a partial activation of this complex must go along with the attempt to conceive a child is more than ludicrous.

        The sexual act acquires its moral weight only by reference to the preservation of the human species, which is supposed to constitute an important human good. However, the moral importance of the preservation of mankind is not proven. It must under no circumstances be merely asserted, and it must under no circumstances be theologically justified. Particular attention must be paid to any possible circular reasoning. The preservation of mankind is an amoral affair. There are people who very much approve of the preservation of mankind, and there are also people who promote the opposite, and finally there are the indifferent people as well. There are only moral obligations against already existing people. In addition, there is no complete biological and individual preform of the human being in male sperm that could claim rights over others. This was an old belief, inspired by Aristotle, which the Thomists adopted without scrutiny.

        Sex with a natural rubber condom and chewing natural rubber are both cases of a frustration of a biological function if one plays the game of natural law. So such chewing would also be a serious moral violation? That would really be very ridiculous. And because this is so, sex with a condom is just as morally marginal.

        A woman who produces milk in her breasts and allows herself the pleasure of squirting around with some of this milk is not much different from Diogenes of Sinope, who masturbated in a crowded market to convey a philosophical message in a provocative way. Both waste a body fluid that has to do with the preservation of mankind and belongs purposefully in a certain organic vessel. One would also have to morally condemn the woman if one wanted to do it with Diogenes. But you simply cannot condemn him, this famous and sometimes extreme Cynic philosopher, who should be celebrated and whose philosophy probably influenced Jesus. That would be silly and narrow (small)-minded, and one could certainly by no means condemn the woman, that would be against common sense.

        Where there are functions, there are faculties. The biologists say that eyebrows have a certain function, as do eyelashes, axillary hair and pubic hair. So there is no doubt that each of these particular hair phenomena represents a biological faculty in its own right. And where a biological faculty exists, there is also the possibility of perverting that faculty. Consequently, shaving would be immoral?

        Do Thomists actually give examples of natural faculties that have more than one main purpose? If so, that would be very interesting. Because then you could ask how they came up with it and why they can so rigorously rule it out in sexuality. I’m talking about main purposes here so that no misunderstandings arise.

        Jesus could justify suicide here (John 15:13) under certain circumstances: „Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.“ The absolute deadly sin in natural law, namely suicide, would under certain circumstances even be morally good? Suicidal martyrdom might be such a case. Natural law would be completely blasted by the approval of such a death, or only by allowing it. Outwardly, a pure suicide takes place, which in one way or another destroys a natural order according to natural law.

        A great sin of the Catholic Church is that she does not communicate properly and clearly that for her masturbation is a deadly sin which, if not confessed, leads directly to hell. I would like to roughly estimate that 70 percent of the baptized Catholics do not really know this. Not letting people know is very wicked of the church, whose only concern is not to lose any more members, which would surely happen if she honestly admitted her hard line.

      8. A dog sperm fertilizes an egg of a female dog. So only the dogish is involved here. According to Thomistic theory one will not say that we find only a potential dog in this fertilized egg cell. With that it would not be a dog yet and could theoretically, perhaps with artificial help, become something else. That’s not what the Thomists want to say. They say that complete dogness is already there. So this is not something potential, but rather actual, the actual dogsness. This brings us to the aspect I mentioned earlier. The form of the dog is not yet fully materialized and probably never will be. So a non-instantiated remainder is left over. Where’s that leftover? Can it be proven empirically? Can I only perceive it in a mystical and unfathomable way? Is it just a pure thought thing, therefore pure fantasy? I don’t think Thomists want to say that actuality can be potentiality and vice versa.In this discussion, one should not resort to the creation of artifacts as helpful illustrations. That would only bring more confusion.Man-made things are not living things.

        Annecdotes about Aristotle:
        DIOGENES LAËRTIUS – LIVES OF THE EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

        „Aristotle was Plato’s most genuine disciple; he spoke with a lisp, as we learn from Timotheus the Athenian in his book On Lives ; further, his calves were slender (so they say), his eyes small, and he was conspicuous by his attire, his rings, and the cut of his hair. According to Timaeus, he had a son by Herpyllis, his concubine, who was also called Nicomachus.

        He seceded from the Academy while Plato was still alive. Hence the remark attributed to the latter: “Aristotle spurns me, as colts kick out at the mother who bore them.”

        He also taught his pupils to discourse upon a set theme, besides practising them in oratory. Afterwards, however, he departed to Hermias the eunuch, who was tyrant of Atarneus, and there is one story that he was on very affectionate terms[!] with Hermias [In German, this is translated as “some claim that he was his lover”]; according to another, Hermias bound him by ties of kinship, giving him his daughter or his niece in marriage, and so Demetrius of Magnesia narrates in his work on Poets and Writers of the Same Name .“

        About Aquinas:
        From a German anecdote book about philosophers: „The Dominican monk Thomas Aquinas was so impressingly corpulent that a round piece had to be sawn out of his desk so that he could sit and work on it. The carpenter was then able to attach the cut-out piece to the desk of a very lean monk.“

        „Aquinas „was a silent, meditative student, who devoted himself to taking notes of his master’s lectures, some of which, on Aristotle’s Ethics, survive in autograph. He was already a massive man, slow in movement and imperturbably calm: his fellow students teasingly called him ‘The Dumb Ox’, but they circulated his lecture-notes with admiration.“ (Anthony Kenny – Aquinas)

        About pederasty in ancient Greece by Schopenhauer:
        „The philosophers also speak much more of this love than of the love of women; in particular, Plato seems to know of hardly any other, and likewise the Stoics, who mention it as worthy of the sage. (Stobaeus, Eclog. eth., bk. II, c. 7.) In the Symposium, Plato even mentions to the credit of Socrates, as an unexampled act of heroism, that he scorned Alcibiades who offered himself to him for the purpose. In Xenophon’s Memorabilia, Socrates speaks of pederasty as a thing blameless and even praiseworthy. (Stobaeus, Florilegium, Vol. I, p. 57.) Likewise in the Memorabilia (Bk. I, cap. 3, § 8), where Socrates warns of the dangers of love, he speaks so exclusively of love of boys that one would imagine there were no women at all. Even Aristotle (Politics, ii, 9) speaks of pederasty as of a usual thing, without censuring it. He mentions that it was held in public esteem by the Celts, that the Cretans and their laws countenanced it as a means against overpopulation, and he recounts (c. 10) the male love-affair of Philolaus the legislator, and so on.“

      9. I mean, actuality can’t be a potentiality at the same time and of course vice versa. If an animal does not instantiate its form properly, it is because pure form remains. So there may be too much matter in one place and too little in another, which may lead to “construction errors” again. A block of marble may have potential forms (usually a form is always actual) to talk about, but animal fetuses? Artificially subtle conceptual differentiations will not help the Thomists either.

        Chewing a nutrient-free gum perverts the eating and digestive faculties. By chewing, I begin a natural process that, in a way, does not get away from the spot. There is no chewing of a meal into individual parts or into a paste, no swallowing and finally no digestion. Everything that can’t be chewed would normally have to be spat out, which also doesn’t happen here. The production of saliva is stimulated completely in vain (at least as far as the main function of eating is concerned), the stomach is hoodwinked because it anticipates the bites of food in a growling manner. So I deliberately use a natural faculty in a way where the goal of the function of this activated faculty is not being attained. This has, if one was already a little hungry, a negative consequence, which expresses itself in slight to moderate pain of hunger. Here we have more the case of a contrary to than other than if you want to use Feser’s little convincing and vague distinction.

        Hume wrote to John Stewart in 1754:
        „But allow me to tell you, that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that
        anything might arise without a Cause: I only maintain’d, that our Certainty of
        the Falshood of that Proposition proceeded neither from Intuition nor Demon-
        stration; but from another Source.“ (diskutiert in Galen Strawson – The Secret Connexion Causation)

        Schopenhauer on Aristotle:
        Aristotle’s main characteristic could be described as the greatest sagacity, combined with circumspection, talent for observation, versatility, and lack of profundity. His view of the world is shallow even if ingeniously elaborated. Depth of thought finds its material within ourselves; sagacity has to receive it from outside in order to have data. However, in those times the empirical data were in part scanty and in part even false. Therefore, the study of Aristotle is nowadays not very rewarding, while that of Plato remains so to the highest degree. The lack of profundity reprimanded in Aristotle of course becomes most visible in metaphysics, where mere sagacity does not suffice, as it does elsewhere; so that in this he satisfies least. His Metaphysics is for the most part talking back and forth about the philosophemes of his predecessors, whom he criticizes and refutes from his point of view, mostly in reference to isolated utterances by them, without really penetrating their meaning, rather like someone who breaks the windows from the outside.a He advances only a few, or none, of his own dogmas, at least not in systematic fashion. That we owe a large part of our knowledge of the older philosophemes to his polemics is an accidental achievement. He is hostile towards Plato mostly where the latter is completely right. Plato’s ‘Ideas’ continue coming back up into his mouth, like something that he cannot digest; he is determined not to admit their validity. – Sagacity suffices in the empirical sciences; consequently Aristotle has a predominantly empirical direction. But as empirical science since that time has made so much progress that it compares to its past state as the manly age compares to infancy, today’s empirical sciences cannot be much advanced directly through the study of his philosophy, but indirectly they can through the method and the properly scientific attitude that characterizes him and was brought into the world by him. However, in zoology he is of direct use even to this day, at least in some individual matters. Now in general his empirical direction creates the tendency in him always to go for breadth, which means that he digresses so easily and often from his train of thought that he is almost unable to follow the whole length of it to the end; however, that is just what profound thinking consists in. Instead he raises the problems everywhere but only touches on them and, without solving them or even discussing them thoroughly, moves on to something else. For this reason his reader so often thinks ‘now it is coming’, but nothing comes. And for this reason, when he has raised a problem and pursued it for a short distance, the truth seems to be at the tip of his tongue; but suddenly he is on to something else and leaves us mired in doubt. For he cannot stick to anything but jumps from what he plans to tackle to something else that occurs to him just now, in the way that a child drops a toy in order to seize another one that it has just noticed. This is the weak side of his intellect; it is the liveliness of superficiality. It explains why Aristotle’s exposition generally lacks systematic order and why we miss methodical progress in it, even separation of the dissimilar and juxtaposition of the similar, although he was a highly systematic mind, for he originated the separation and classification of the sciences. He discusses things as they occur to him, without having first thought them through and without having drawn up a clear plan for himself. He thinks with the pen in his hand, which is a great relief for the author but a great burden for the reader. That explains the haphazardness and insufficiency of his presentation; hence he comes to talk a hundred times about the same thing, because something foreign had intervened; hence he cannot stick to the same subject but jumps from one to another. Hence, as described above, he leads the reader, who anxiously awaits the solution of the problems raised, by the nose; hence he begins his inquiry into a matter, after having spent several pages on it, suddenly anew with ‘Let us, therefore, take another starting point for our reflection’,a and that six times in one text. Hence the saying ‘What great matter of value might be gained from the pompous announcements of such a braggard?’ fits so many introductions of his books and chapters; hence, in one word, he is so often confused and insufficient. Of course, by way of exception he did behave differently, as for example the three books of the Rhetoric are a model of scientific method throughout and even show an architectonic symmetry that may have been the model for the Kantian one.
        The radical antithesis of Aristotle, in the way of thinking as well as in the presentation, is Plato. The latter holds on to his main thought as if with an iron hand, follows its thread, even if it becomes ever so thin, in all its ramifications, through the labyrinths of the longest dialogues, and finds it again after all episodes. One can tell, before he started writing, he had thoroughly and entirely thought through his subject and had designed an artful order for its presentation. Thus each dialogue is a carefully planned work of art all of whose parts stand in a well-thought-out connection, often intentionally hidden for a while, and whose frequent episodes, by themselves and often unexpectedly, lead back to the main thought, which is then elucidated by them. Plato always knew, in the full sense of the word, what he wanted and intended, although for the most part he did not bring the problems to a definite solution but was content with their thorough discussion. Therefore, we need not be so much surprised if, as some reports indicate, especially in Aelian (Historical Miscellany III, 19; IV, 9; etc.), a major personal disharmony manifested itself between Plato and Aristotle, and Plato may even from time to time have spoken somewhat contemptuously of Aristotle, whose wanderings, vagaries,e and digressions relate to his polymathy, but are wholly antipathetic to Plato. Schiller’s poem ‘Breadth and Depth’f can also be applied to the opposition between Aristotle and Plato.
        Despite this empirical intellectual tendency Aristotle nonetheless was not a consistent and methodical empiricist; consequently he had to be overthrown and driven out by the true father of empiricism, Bacon of Verulam. Whoever really wants to understand in which sense and for what reason the latter is the opponent and conqueror of Aristotle and his method, should read Aristotle’s books On Generation and Corruption.a There he really will find reasoning a priori about nature, which wants to understand and explain its processes from mere concepts; a particularly glaring example is provided in Book II, ch. 4, where a chemistry is constructed a priori. Against that Bacon came up with the advice not to make the abstract but the intuitive, experience, the source of cognition of nature. The brilliant success of this lies in the present exalted state of the natural sciences, from which we look down with a pitiful smile on to those Aristotelian vexations. In regard to this it is noteworthy that the books by Aristotle just mentioned clearly reveal even the origin of scholasticism and that the hair-splitting, quibbling method of the latter can already be found in the former. – For the same purpose the books On the Heavens are very useful and, therefore, worth reading. Immediately the first chapters are a true specimen for the method of wanting to know and determine the essence of nature from mere concepts, and the failure is obvious here. In ch. 8 it is proved to us from mere concepts and truisms that there are not several worlds, and in ch. 12 there is a similar speculation about the path of the stars.e It is a consistent subtilizing from false concepts, a quite peculiar dialectic of nature, undertaking to decide a priori, from certain universal principles meant to express what is rational and proper, how nature must exist and function. In seeing such a great, even stupendous mind, as Aristotle is after all, so deeply ensnared in errors of this kind, which maintained their validity until just a few hundred years ago, it becomes clear to us above all how much humanity owes to Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, Robert Hooke, and Newton. In chs. 7 and 8 of the second book Aristotle presents to us his wholly absurd arrangement of the heavens: the stars are fixed to the revolving hollow sphere, sun and planets to similar closer ones; the friction from revolution causes light and heat; and the earth positively stands still. All that might pass if nothing better had existed before; but when he himself, in ch. 13, presents the entirely correct views of the Pythagoreans on the shape, position, and motion of the earth, only to dismiss them, then this must provoke our indignation. The latter will increase when we see from his frequent polemics against Empedocles, Heraclitus, and Democritus that they all had much more accurate insights into nature, and also paid better attention to experience than the shallow twaddler whom we have here before us. Empedocles indeed had already taught about a tangential force originating in rotation and counteracting gravity (II, 1 and 13,a together with Scholia, p. 491). Far from being able to estimate the proper value of such things, Aristotle does not even once accept the rightful views of the older thinkers about the true significance of the above and the below, but even here joins the opinion of the common herd, which follows superficial appearance (IV, 2). But now we must consider that these opinions of his found recognition and dissemination, pushed aside everything earlier and better, and later became the foundation of Hipparchus and then Ptolemaic cosmology, a burden which humanity had to carry until the beginning of the sixteenth century. Certainly this system was to the great advantage of the Judaeo–Christian religious doctrines, which are incompatible with the Copernican system of the world; for how should there be a god in heaven when there is no heaven? Sincere theism necessarily presupposes that one divide the world into heaven and earth: human beings stroll about on the latter, the God who governs them sits in the former. Now if astronomy takes away the heaven, then it takes away the God together with it, for it has extended the world such that no room is left for the God. However, a personal being, as every god inevitably is, that has no place but is everywhere and nowhere, can merely be spoken of, not imagined, and thus not believed in. Accordingly, to the degree that physical astronomy is popularized, theism must disappear, however firmly it is impressed upon the people through incessant and most solemn prompting, as the Catholic Church correctly recognized at once and consequently persecuted the Copernican system. Therefore, it is foolish to be so very amazed about, and to raise such outcry over, the oppression of Galileo; for ‘everything in nature strives to preserve itself’. Who knows whether some quiet insight, or at least presentiment, of this congeniality of Aristotle to the doctrine of the Church, and the danger averted by him, did not add to his excessive adoration in the Middle Ages? Who knows whether some, provoked by his reports about the older astronomical systems, had not quietly realized long before Copernicus the truths that the latter finally dared to proclaim, after many years of hesitating and on the brink of parting from the world? (Parerga and Paralipomena: Volume 2 translated and edited by Adrian Del Caro and Christopher Janaway)

        Schopenhauer on freedom and fatalism:
        Predestination and fatalism are not different in the main, but only in that the given character and the external determination of human action emanate in the former from a being with cognition, in the latter from a being without cognition. In their result they converge: whatever happens must happen. – The concept of a moral freedom, on the other hand, is inseparable from that of originality. For that a being is the work of another, yet in his willing and doing is supposed to be free, can be formulated in words but cannot be achieved in thoughts. After all, the one who called him into existence out of nothing has in the same way co-created and determined his essence as well, i.e., all his qualities. For one can never create without creating a something, i.e., a precisely determined essence in every sense and in all its qualities. However, later all its expressions and effects flow with necessity from these same determined qualities, in that they are only the qualities themselves brought into play, which merely required an external occasion in order to appear. How a human being is determines how he must act; therefore blame and merit do not adhere to his individual deeds, but to his essence and being. For this reason theism and the moral responsibility of the human being are incompatible, precisely because responsibility always falls back on the author of the being, where it has its centre of gravity. People have sought in vain to bridge these two incompatible concepts, but the bridge always collapses. The free being must also be the original being. If our will is free, then it is also the original being and vice versa. The pre-Kantian dogmatism that tried to keep these two predicaments separate was thus compelled to assume two freedoms, namely that of the first world cause for cosmology, and that of the human will for morality and theology; accordingly even in Kant the third as well as the fourth antimony deal with freedom. (Parerga and Paralipomena: Volume 2 translated and edited by Adrian Del Caro and Christopher Janaway)

        Schopenhauer on scholasticism:
        I want to place the characteristic quality of scholasticism in the fact that its supreme criterion of truth is holy scripture, to which we can consequently appeal from every rational conclusion. – One of its peculiarities is the consistently polemical character of its delivery: every inquiry is soon turned into a controversy whose pro and contrad produce new pro and contra and thus provide it with the content that otherwise would soon run short. However, the hidden, ultimate root of this peculiarity lies in the conflict between reason and revelation. (Parerga and Paralipomena: Volume 2 translated and edited by Adrian Del Caro and Christopher Janaway)

  7. Because my own additions and comments are very messy and jumbled, I’ve improved everything slightly and put it on an own blog, where it’s now much more reader-friendly.

    https://spirit-salamander.blogspot.com/2019/08/all-round-critique-of-thomistic-natural.html

    1. Nice! I don’t like blogspot much but I’ll check it out.

  8. Now I have also extended and arranged my review to the Last Superstition:

    https://spirit-salamander.blogspot.com/2019/09/critique-of-edward-fesers-last.html

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