Feser, Edward. Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction

By McInerny, D. Q. | The Review of Metaphysics, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Feser, Edward. Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction


McInerny, D. Q., The Review of Metaphysics


FESER, Edward. Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction. Neunkirchen-Seelscheid: Editiones Scholasticae, 2014. 302 pp.--In the prolegomenon to this book, Edward Feser informs us that his introduction to scholastic metaphysics, while written from a Thomistic point of view, will take into account the views of other major scholastic thinkers, such as Scotus, Suarez, and Ockham. He provides us with a larger context in which he develops his subject by making continuing references to pertinent aspects of modern philosophy in general. In particular, alongside his exposition of scholastic metaphysics, he carries on a productive interchange with analytic philosophy, thereby demonstrating that analytic philosophers are adopting positions which have long been mainstays of scholastic thought. Feser tells us that for his study he has profitably relied on what he appropriately describes as "those unjustly long neglected twentieth century manuals of Scholastic philosophy." The prolegomenon contains a pointed critique of modern science, which emphasizes how science manages systematically to miss the qualitative because of its narrow concentration on the quantitative. This section includes a telling line of argument in response to the reasoning typical of those infected by scientism.

The book is composed of four chapters, each of which is conveniently divided into sections and subsections. Chapter one is devoted to act and potency, in the explanation of which special stress is given to the fact that the two represent a real, not simply a logical, distinction. It is shown how potency and act relate to change, as well as to causal powers. We learn that today analytic philosophers "support the thesis that causal powers are real features of the world," and that "an essentially Scholastic notion of causal powers is very much alive." Feser shows that modern philosophy's skepticism regarding causality is traceable back to Descartes and beyond him, namely, to Ockham and Nicholas of Autrecourt. The commonly appealed to "laws of nature" fall flat as explanations and cannot replace the notion of causal powers; indeed, without reference to causal powers, those laws are not intelligible.

The subject of the second chapter is causation, with special attention given to efficient and final causality. Through Aquinas's arguments for finality we see that the intelligibility of efficient causality depends on the recognition of final causality. Humean skepticism regarding causality can be explained by the abandonment of final causality. After laying out the scholastic principles regarding causality, Feser responds with a number of arguments, including those from the principle of noncontradiction and the principle of sufficient reason, to objections to causality found in Hume, Russell, Newton, and quantum mechanics. …

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