As regular readers will know either from moonlighting on Biologos, or from the heads up in the comments on a previous post, BioLogos moderator Caspar Hess started a thread there questioning why The Hump should both feel the need, and dare, to exist.
The way that thread has developed is the answer, as far as I am concerned, and explains why I don’t bother to discuss much there now, even on a thread about me.
Jim Stump intervened in a post that mentioned the changes in metaphysics since the time of … well, the olden days, I suppose, and I asked him what changes in that area he felt most significant in the matter of theistic evolution.
His reply, which he described as a treatise despite its brevity compared to many of our comments here (and those of our guys over there!), was nevertheless a good response to the question. He happened to mention in a sentence that one can’t go back to Aristotle, though he has useful ideas to contribute, without serious reworking of his concepts in the light of events since the 4th century BC. Which is very true, as the Neo-aristotelians will tell you whilst they go about doing it, and analytic philosophers like Thomas Nagel will do in practice even though they don’t mention their debt to Aristotle. One actually needs to distinguish between his science and his metaphysics, which distinction is too often neglected, and that may have been part of what Jim had in mind.
So I was very happy with Jim Stump’s reply. But not with the responses to it. Roger Sawtelle chastised Jim, and me, for visting the altar of Aristotle at all – basically on the grounds that he is old and, worse still, Greek, culminating in : “You can’t use Aristotle to explain new scientific realities. His time is past.
Jonathan Burke added to Rogers dismissal of Jim’s considered correction with “He wrote so much junk.” Turning his attack on me (quoting a one-liner from Beaglelady who doesn’t do Aristotle, but who was after a biblical proof text that God created planets, in order to prove I was a Fundamentalist – or maybe a failed one, if I couldn’t turn one up) he also dragged in the name of “Galen the gibbering Greek”.
Now what do you notice as missing in any of these replies? It’s any reasoned discussion of a single idea of Aristotle, and especially in the field of metaphysics, which was where things began in the “discussion”. On BioLogos (and this really hasn’t changed much over the years) it’s enough simply to assert that some source of knowledge is wrong, without ever actually having to say how he’s wrong and why – unless that he’s old, or Greek, or gibbering.
There was no indication in any of the posts that anyone had ever read, let alone, understood Aristotle – nor, come to that, that they had read or understood the point I had made about him. Better to throw the word “fundamentalist” around than think about how one can be one of the class “a human being” if Aristotle was wrong about essentialism. Or, by the same token, how God can be God, if he has no essential nature.
Now me, I prefer to try and assess people’s ideas first hand. I’ve read a little Aristotle, though not on metaphysics, and rather more of Aquinas’s Christian re-interpretation of him. If you look up Aristotle’s collected works, it amounts to two volumes of about 1200 pages each. On Amazon’s league table, that book is still in the top 300 or so books about philosophers, 2300 years after he died. To sum that up with “Junk” or “His time is past” without attempting further discussion is not worthy of reply. So I won’t.
As for Galen (who didn’t have a dog in this fight at all), you will easily find in Wikipedia that “Arguably the most accomplished of all medical researchers of antiquity, Galen influenced the development of various scientific disciplines, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and neurology, as well as philosophy and logic.”
But you will look in vain for any historical reference to him gibbering. Enough of that, however, goes on at BioLogos, I find.