The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism

The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism

Edward Feser / Oct 17, 2019

The Last Superstition A Refutation of the New Atheism The central contention of the New Atheism of Richard Dawkins Daniel Dennett Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens is that the centuries old war between science and religion is now over and that relig

  • Title: The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism
  • Author: Edward Feser
  • ISBN: 9781587314513
  • Page: 311
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The central contention of the New Atheism of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens is that the centuries old war between science and religion is now over and that religion has lost But as Edward Feser shows in The Last Superstition, there is not, and never has been, any war between science and religion at all There has instead been a The central contention of the New Atheism of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens is that the centuries old war between science and religion is now over and that religion has lost But as Edward Feser shows in The Last Superstition, there is not, and never has been, any war between science and religion at all There has instead been a conflict between two entirely philosophical worldviews the classical teleological vision of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, on which purpose or goal directedness is as inherent a feature of the material world as mass or electric charge and the modern mechanical vision of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and Hume, according to which physical reality is comprised of nothing than purposeless, meaningless particles in motion This modern mechanical view of nature has never been proved, and its hold over the contemporary intelligentsia owes to rhetorical sleight of hand and political expediency than to rational argument For as Feser demonstrates, the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the traditional natural law conception of morality are rationally unavoidable given the classical teleological philosophical world view Hence modern secularism crucially depends on the false insinuation that the mechanical philosophy has somehow been established by science Moving beyond what he regards as the pointless and point missing dispute between Intelligent Design advocates and Darwinians, Feser holds that the key to understanding the follies of the New Atheism lies not in quibbles over the evolutionary origins of this or that biological organ, but in a rethinking of thephilosophical presuppositions of scientific method itself back to first principles In particular, it involves a recovery of the forgotten truths of classical philosophy When this is accomplished, religion can be seen to be grounded firmly in reason, not blind faith And despite its moral and intellectual pretensions, the New Atheism is exposed as resting on very old errors, together with an appalling degree of intellectual dishonesty, philosophical shallowness, and historical, theological, and scientific ignorance.

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    About "Edward Feser"

      • Edward Feser

        Edward Feser is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California He has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio He holds a Ph.D in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Barbara, an M.A in religion from the Claremont Graduate School, and a B.A in philosophy and religious studies from the California State University at Fullerton.Called by National Review one of the best contemporary writers on philosophy, Feser is the author of On Nozick, Philosophy of Mind, Locke, The Last Superstition A Refutation of the New Atheism, and Aquinas, and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Hayek and Aristotle on Method and Metaphysics He is also the author of many academic articles His primary academic research interests are in the philosophy of mind, moral and political philosophy, and the philosophy of religion.Feser also writes on politics and culture, from a conservative point of view and on religion, from a traditional Roman Catholic perspective In this connection, his work has appeared in such publications as The American, The American Conservative, City Journal, The Claremont Review of Books, Crisis, First Things, Liberty, National Review, New Oxford Review, Public Discourse, Reason, and TCS Daily He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and six children.


    1. In the closing pages of this book, Edward Feser sums up his thesis, arguing that he has"established, (a) when rightly understood, the traditional arguments for an Aristotelian metaphysical picture of the world are powerful, (b) the modern philosophers' criticisms of that picture are no good and their own attempted replacements of it are fraught with various paradoxes and incoherencies, and (c) modern science is not only inconsistent with that metaphysical picture but at least to some extent tend [...]

    2. This book is angry and funny and smart. Parts of chapter two slow the narrative down because (as Feser notes) if you're going to defend Aristotle and the people who built best on his thought (hello, Thomas Aquinas! hello, s!), then it helps to know what Aristotle and the philosophers before him actually said and meant. There's just no getting around that. But Feser rewards the patient reader, and the result is a tour de force refutation of the "new atheists." Bottom line: You can't breeze throug [...]

    3. Well, I'm giving this book three stars (I still find the idea of rating books by stars, or numbers, ridiculous, but I'm not going to go into that). Readers whose experience of this book differs from mine only in that they are in sympathy with Feser's views on morality might, instead, give the book four or five stars. In other words, for me it was the moral dogma that brought the average down. To give fewer than three stars, though, would certainly be an injustice.Let's start with the essentials. [...]

    4. (New) Atheists are fighting a battle against the attempts of crazy religious people trying to influence science education (intelligent design). Ed Feser, who btw also thinks intelligent design believers are idiots, is fighting another battle with very little overlap.Feser´s battlefield is metaphysics and the supposed decline of western civilisation due to „modernist“ philosophy. Even if you accept Fesers aristotelean philosphy, what´s it got to do with religion and belief as practised by b [...]

    5. Ed Feser is perhaps the most entertaining philosopher you can read today. With humor and a take-no-prisoners style that is as polemic as the "new atheists" he is refuting, Feser takes down the scientists-wanna-be-philosophers of the day in The Last Superstition. Along the way, you are treated to an excellent overview of philosophy and an understanding as to how all the modern philosophies - whether scientism, materialism, nominalism, conceptualism, or dualism - fail to hold up to serious logical [...]

    6. An astounding and philosophically dense work that is really readable by anyone. Dr. Feser cuts to the heart of the collapse of western morality and culture. This is no easy read but it's totally worth it.

    7. Ever since I started tweeting and blogging my thoughts on economics, politics and religion I’ve noticed that there are a few topics that always get a strong reaction, no matter when I post them. Usually these reactions come from complete strangers who I believe are trolling twitter for key words so they can jump down the throat of anyone they disagree with.Case in point, a couple of weeks ago I posted a quote from a book I’d been reading about the philosophical history of the atheist positio [...]

    8. I won't say 'Don't give this to an atheist you like!", but I will caution that no one likes to hear themselves described as lacking some important piece of education. Few people are that humble. Feser says he is writing to set the record straight about philosophy's debt to aristotelianism. He does that in the most concise, no non-sense way I have ever seen. Nothing new, just really clear exposition. That he writes with anger, he is honest about. Years of hearing people who do not have a good gra [...]

    9. Billed as a refutation of the New Atheists, this book is much more. A back to basics explanation of the philosophy of Aristotle and Aquinas, he explains the metaphysics at a level that is perfect for people with no training in philosophy beginning with the questions these philosophers were attempting to provide an answer to. I must confess, they were questions that I hadn't really thought much about. Feser takes you from the initial question - How is change possible, to an explanation of act and [...]

    10. Edward Feser is like the college professor you always dreamed of having--irreverent to the cool kids who like to hear themselves talk and exciting reverence to the Chestertonian magic of reality. Dr. Feser coaches you through the more technical aspects of scholastic philosophy, and his humor throughout makes it worthwhile. He presents Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas in a way that puts my Christian-affiliated college philosophy course to shame. Even if you're not interested in the rhetoric of the N [...]

    11. (I have a longer, more detailed review elsewhere.)I've added a star for the chapters that give an overview of Plato's, Aristotle's, and Aquinas's ideas. Those are reasonably clear and, I assume, given Feser's background, complete summary of Plato's theory of Forms and the ideas that follow from that.Where the book falls down, unfortunately, is everywhere else. The book is subtitled "A Refutation of the New Atheism", but Feser can't be bothered addressing, or even quoting, the claims made by the [...]

    12. I'm really having a hard time rating this book. I was excited at the beginning because of the conviction in Feser's words that he would definitively demolish the atheist position. Since it had been a very long while when I last touched on this subject of god, I thought maybe I had missed something back in the day when I fell out with religion, and who doesn’t love a good challenge? However, the excitement soon turned into annoyance. It’s not a refutation of atheism per se, but of New Atheism [...]

    13. This book assumes Aristotle picture of causation without argument for it.The author asserts this but never proves it. He merely asserts that a mechanical view of the universe is wrong but even if he were to make the case that this view is mistaken it would not prove his view. He cites William Craig of having convinced him of the resurrection which is problematic given that Craig is wrong. I think that mixing philosophical theism with catholic views of god opens the door to scientific refutation. [...]

    14. If you want a book that is basically a short summary of my Ancient Phil, Medieval Phil, and Modern Phil class with an emphasis on the divine, this is the book.

    15. I tipped the scales and gave this book four over three stars.Though I'm down with employing the same kind of rhetoric against New Atheists as they use, and I am all for ridiculing them (all in certain contexts), and I was looking forward to Feser's approach, the ridicule and mockery got a bit old and boring. At times, this book read like it was meant to be something else, and then Feser (or some publisher), desiring to cash-in on the popularity of New Atheism literature, went back into this book [...]

    16. I'm torn on whether I should give this three or four stars.The strengths of the book are very strong; if you want a crash course on the metaphysics of:-Plato-Aristotle-Aquinas-The early modern philosophersAs well as philosophy of mind, you could do a lot worse than this book. Moreover, this book brings much needed balance into public discussions of religion and atheism, faith and reason. By the end of the book most people, I think, should see how you can arrive at religion and even a religion sp [...]

    17. The first Atheist I engaged in argument was when I was an eighteen-year old Marine fresh out of Boot Camp. His most notable quality was the same I have found in most of the Atheists I have met in the thirty years since, smugness. While Boot Camp had prepared me for physical battle, I was ill equipped to wage a sustainable campaign against the arguments he used. I knew I was being had, I just didn’t know how. The weapons needed to engage in this particular type of battle are a grounding in clas [...]

    18. Feser's book is an excellent read, not only as a malleus haereticorum against the New Atheists, but (perhaps more importantly) as an introduction to Aristotelian- Philosophy. In the book, Feser introduces Aristotelian metaphysics, ethics, anthropology, and epistemology with the firm (and defensible) conviction that the Aristotelian model for explaining reality is fundamentally rational, and therefore all the concomitant conclusions of Christian-Medieval Civilization were rationally defensible as [...]

    19. Feser's personality is in line with my own, which makes reading this book entertaining, despite the subject matter. He's a great writer and has a very firm grasp on Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics. My only complaint would be when he argues points, like the immaterial nature of the mind, he tends to rigidly repeat Thomistic categories rather than fall back on them to formulate his own argument. I think people like Moreland have done just that and it's far more powerful, even if in line with Th [...]

    20. Whatever one may think of the author's style (personally I find his digs at the "New Atheists" delicious), and whatever your religious views (or lack thereof) -- which are in fact irrelevant to the purpose of this book, as the author is at pains to note -- no person who is not familiar with the topics and history covered by this book can seriously be said to have been adequately educated. I do not make this claim lightly: the matter is just that important, fundamental, and far-reaching. The book [...]

    21. Edward Feser's The Last Superstition is a polemical work. However, this should not be surprising for two reasons. First, Feser is dealing with amounts to not mere nonsense, but nonsense on stilts. Second, Feser once wrote an essay entitled, Can Philosophy be Polemical?, pondering whether it is appropriate to engage in polemical debate over philosophical questions. In this book, Feser answers that question in the affirmative. He freely admits in the preface, "If this seems to be an angry book, th [...]

    22. This is an important book as a response to the so called New Atheism but more on account of the fact that the book mostly ignores them and instead Dr Feser takes the opportunity to build a case for the Thomistic account of metaphysics.The upshot of all this is that if you are looking for a detailed point by point rebuttal of the arguments made by the New Atheists then there are probably better books for that task.In spite of the fact that this book is billed as a polemic I found that the the rhe [...]

    23. I checked out this book from my library and it didn't take much reading to realize I was probably going to have to purchase my own copy. (Or re-check it out from the library which is what I did.) If you don't have much experience with philosophy and/or metaphysics, the process of contemplating ideas that are foreign to you can take time to get used to. But once I settled in and got used to the authors style it became much easier to comprehend. The Last Superstition by Edward Feser is an unflinch [...]

    24. My first foray into Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy, this book was a primer on the topic for me as much as it was a "refutation of the new atheism". Feser made his points well, provided plenty of background information, and put forth a solid case for a system of thought that deserves (and commands, really) our attention. It is a way of looking at the world unfamiliar with us moderns unless we think about things long enough.I'm not entirely convinced of the value of Aristotelian-Thomistic philo [...]

    25. If you want to understand the classical philosophical framework that much of traditional Christian theology is based on, this book does a great job of explaining it. Ed Feser is a Thomistic philosophy professor who really knows how to make complex concepts make sense in a concrete way. This might be the most accessible overview of classical and philosophy I've ever read. I'd love to give it 5 stars.Sadly, I can't. Feser spends too much time making snide comments about the purveyors of "New Athe [...]

    26. Fantastic! I think this is the only book to which I've assigned 5 stars. 267 pages in length and I wouldn't cut a single one. If you've read any of the recent books by the "new" atheists (Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and the like) then you'll feel dirty and need to take a shower. This book is a good, long hot shower with a big bar of Irish Spring. If you think metaphysics and philosophy are either boring or too difficult, this book will change your mind. If you've read some Nietzsche and t [...]

    27. Feser does a great job contrasting Aristotelian/Thomistic Philosophy vs. Modern/Newtonian/Mechanical Philosophy, and what follows from the denial of the former and acceptance of the latter. Feser claims that the abandonment of Aristotelianism,viz Aristotle's metaphysic, was the single greatest intellectual mistake in Western thought. The book explains why this is true.Despite the difficulty of subject matter, I found the book fairly accessible. Although, much attention and focus is required. Fes [...]

    28. The Last Superstition is one of the best books for profound thinking that I have ever read. My understanding of Aristotle, Plato, and the fallacies of the New Atheist is at an entirely new level. If a person doesn't do the heavy lifting to understand Aristotle, then he will misunderstand Aquinas. If he doesn't comprehend Aquinas, then he is easy pickings for the atheistic genre. On top of the thinking, Feser uses hilarious examples and knows how to keep the main thing the main thing in a debate. [...]

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