Ed Feser has written a long post in response to my very brief one about his recent paper on Aquinas and inertial motion. I really don't think my little remark is worth all this boring argument, but as Feser accused me of dishonesty in the comments of my post, I feel compelled to respond. I am often wrong, I sometimes say stupid things, and I sometimes don't make my point as clearly as I might have. But I am not dishonest.
Wherein lies the supposed dishonesty? Feser begins by complaining that I ignored the whole first half of his paper. Well, I did! That wasn't the funny part! Again: this is a blog, not a philosophical journal. I comment on what I want to comment on, in whole or in part. I am not obliged to analyze his whole paper in order to make my silly little point. If Ed think otherwise then I think he misunderstands the nature of a blog.
He goes on to say
In the second half of the paper I examine, without endorsing, several ways of construing the relationship between the two principles...
and lists three of these ways. Well, my post concentrated on just one of the three possibilities, but explicitly mentioned that he treated of other possibilities. So I can't be accused of misrepresentation on that point.
What about the case I made fun of? Did I misrepresent what he wrote in any way? No, Feser says, both in his comments on my post and in his own blog post, that I interpreted him correctly in that
...I do discuss (though I do not endorse) the idea that angelic substances are the cause of inertial motion.He complains that
Needless to say, the idea has nothing whatsoever to do with wings, golden hair, white robes and the other stuff of children’s books.Well, guess what? I didn't write a word about wings, golden hair, blah blah. Such dishonesty, Prof. Feser! (OK, I did make a parenthetical jab about dancing and pins, but that could hardly be resisted under the circumstances.)
Now, as far as endorsment: Feser says he didn't endorse any of the three possibilities. So if I had chosen any of the other possibilities, or even if I had criticised all three, he could still have responded "Well, I didn't endorse any of those solutions, I merely mentioned them." But for the case in question, here is what he wrote (emphasis added):
Hence the only possible cause of inertial motion—again, at least if it is considered to involve real change—would seem to be a necessarily existing intelligent substance or substances, of the sort the earlier Aristotelian tradition thought moved celestial objects. (Unless it is simply God Himself causing it directly as Unmoved Mover.)
So, imagine I wrote a physics paper, in which I wrote
There are three possibilities for the Higgs: Supersymmetric models, grand unified models, and the Standard Model.... In the case of the Standard Model, the only possible cause of the Higgs couplings would seem to be that they are the result of the action of intelligent fairies.Now, if someone wrote a blog post saying, "Seriously, Robb? Intelligent fairies?" how should I respond? "What dishonesty! I didn't endorse that possibility, I only mentioned it. And you completely ignored my treatment of the supersymmetric and grand unified cases!"
Again: Feser suggested angels as a serious possibility - indeed, the only possibility - for the cause of inertial motion for the case under consideration. I think that's worthy of a comment. And a chuckle.
Alright, I almost regret having written the post, since, as I said, this is all a rather boring argument. But what made it all worthwhile was the 344 (!) comments on Feser's blog in which Feserite dittoheads demonstrate their philosophical acumen by writing, "Yeah, that Oerter's a complete idiot/jerk/brainless GNU." Ah, it warms the cockles of my heart.
Feser finally complains that I am "tossing some red meat to the New Atheist mob", who will now endlessly repeat "Feser claims that asteroids are moved around by angels!" Well judging by the comments here, my readership consists mainly of Feserite Thomists, so I can hardly be accused of playing to the audience. And I can only dream of having that kind of clout in the atheist blogosphere - I've never had 344 comments on any post, ever. I'm fairly sure my silly little jibe would have sunk without a trace had not Ed brought attention to it. So if what he fears comes to pass, he will only have himself to blame - in more ways than one.