Sunday, October 29, 2017

Problems Debating Catholic Arguments

In my Facebook feed I saw a suggested post about an upcoming Unbelievable podcast hosted by Justin Brierly that brought up a concern:

So the next episode will have Ed Feser and Arif Ahmed debating moderated by Justin Brierly - what is there to be concerned about? After all I think Justin is a fair host of a good show, I've got a high opinion of Arif, and I think Ed is one of the best defenders of Thomistic arguments for belief in a god.

Well the main problem is that debating the kinds of arguments Ed Feser has in his new book isn't really about debating the arguments themselves at all.  Much like Aquinas's famous "Five Ways" arguments, it's more about whether or not you accept the Thomistic/Neo-Aristotelian metaphysics that is assumed by the arguments - not the actual form of the arguments themselves.

So debating "two arguments" of the kind Feser espouses is kind of silly, the debate should be focused on his underlying metaphysic.  Far too often in debates with Thomists atheists go at the arguments without really focusing on the underlying metaphysic and so miss the mark. This lets Thomist defenders rightly point out how the atheists have got things all wrong.

Arif is a Cambridge philosopher and from what I've seen of his debates before, he a good one at that. My concern is whether or not the debate format itself will constrain him into a way that makes it hard to attack the core of what is wrong with the kind of arguments Ed is offering.


  1. Fezer’s defense of hell is ad hoc all the way down

  2. Can you review that debate?

    I think Professor Ahmed did pretty well.