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Sunday, November 22, 2020


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Do you think a normal person would ever be able to educate himself in philosophy and theology without going to a university? In the same level as you, professor?. I'm a young catholic converted interest in studying aristotelian/thomistic philosophy. I want people to see that my faith isn't irrational, it is the truth...


I would say so if you are dedicated and hard-working. The Internet offers many resources for independent study and it's free! Since you are a young Catholic convert, I especially recommend the work of Edward Feser. He has written many books in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition that will prove helpful and he has an outstanding blog.https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/

There are other Catholic bloggers online, but Dr. Feser is the best for your needs.

Best wishes,


Thank you for your answer!!!

It has been said that the logical version of the problem of evil has been resolved, but that the probabilistic version of the problem is a live issue.

Dear Cairo,

Studying philosophy at university is not necessarily an advantage! I took two years of philosophy as a 'minor' at a very reputable university in Britain and it was awful - generally poor quality lectures, poor tutorials, and the required reading and focus of the courses were heavily contemporary (contemporary secondary texts were almost always given priority over those few historically major texts we were required to read - in fact, I read more of the latter studying English literature!). Quite soul-destroying unless you really want to spend weeks discussing things like Peter Singer's ethics (and learn why he thinks it's okay to kill disabled infants), Dennett and the Churchlands (who think the mind doesn't exist), and read badly written academic philosophy papers before you've tackled the giants of the field. And don't expect a fair hearing as a theist, unless you are lucky.

Thankfully my interest survived that. I have learned far more from blogs like this one and Dr Feser's, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (which is online), the very useful 'History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps' podcast series by Peter Adamson (https://historyofphilosophy.net/ ), and by just carefully reading the classic texts from Plato to Searle, than I ever learned at university. Simon Blackburn's book The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy is also really useful when you are starting out. Now aged 32 I have a pretty good grasp of the subject historically (though I still have big gaps in my reading such as Hegel) and can understand fairly well some pretty arcane stuff like Levinas. And I have gained a pretty good grounding in why I believe what I believe (I'm a theist myself). I've achieved that even though philosophy is only one of my secondary interests, along with history, politics, and anthropology, my primary interests being literature, music, film and art. So if I can get to that stage in twelve years or so (and I'm not a fast reader), I'm sure someone dedicated primarily to philosophy can do a great deal better than I have!

The other downside of university is that there are a lot of distractions and most of your fellow students will not be that interested in studying at all. The level of debate in class is likely to be poor at undergrad level. Half the students or more won't have read the required texts at all. The best thing about university, at least a good one, is you get access to a good library, and you will probably meet two or three really interesting and intelligent people whom you can discuss things with. However, the internet used intelligently can also go some way towards answering those needs.

Interested people on the internet are often much more helpful than most university staff. They are often generous with their time and happy to point you towards what to read and study. If you have difficulties with something, at the very least you could see what the regular commentors at Ed Feser's blog say, as most of them have a good handle on A/T metaphysics and are lively and enthusiastic debaters.

Also, try and befriend a student or academic who has JSTOR access - otherwise this is prohibitively expensive - it gives you online access to most philosophy journals. Someone with access can download what you want to read as a pdf and send it to you. If you can't find books that are out of print and don't have good library access, you'd be surprised what you can find as pdfs online also.

Hope this is helpful and encouraging.

Dear Dr Vallicella,

You may recall that Kolakowski in his book on Husserl also argues that the debate on psychologism is not resolved. He claims Piaget has a psychological conception of logic which resists Husserl's criticisms. I can't be alone in wishing he discussed this in a little more depth! 


Right you are about Kolakowski. I should have mentioned him earlier.

And thank you very much for responding to Cairo. Very kind of you. And I can relate to your statement.

>>The other downside of university is that there are a lot of distractions and most of your fellow students will not be that interested in studying at all. The level of debate in class is likely to be poor at undergrad level. Half the students or more won't have read the required texts at all. <<

More than half! I came to the conclusion that teaching philosophy at a so-called university is an absurd activity and so quit a tenured position in 1991 -- and that was before the PeeCee insanity was in full flower as it is now. The Brits are no better than the Amis -- worse, actually. It sickens me that the English who came up with the great ideas without which there would have been no America have lost the will to defend their culture.

By the way you can use JSTOR for free w/o academic affiliation. Go here: https://support.jstor.org/hc/en-us/articles/115004760028-How-to-register-get-free-access-to-content

Dr Vallicella,

If Cairo doesn't see my comment, and you think it would be useful to him, perhaps you could email it to him if you have his address and it's not too much trouble. Thanks!

I think the situation is worse in Britain too - I generally try and ignore our seemingly terminal decline and focus on the relatively few positive things that remain. I try to defend my culture, surely one the very greatest achievements of mankind, in my own small way, and hope at least to be able to make a small contribution to it. But it is hard to feel optimistic about the wider situation here.

Re JSTOR - oops, silly me. I had it in my head that the 'free usage' for individuals was much more restricted than that - perhaps it was when I was a student. Anyway, even better for all of us!


I don't have Cairo's e-mail address.

A part-cause of the Decline of the West is that we have been weakened by our own virtues, toleration chiefly. We have become so tolerant that we tolerate the barbarians who would replace us. They have no respect for our culture and no intention of assimilating. The problem is exacerbated by leftist complicity.

If, on the other hand, we get on the stick and start procreating to stave off demographic disaster, the added population has its own downside.

I pity the poor secularist who has nothing good to look forward to.

Dr Vallicella,

I agree. But liberal toleration has morphed into pseudo-toleration, in which the perverse is often 'tolerated' at the expense of the normative. It is not true toleration but approbation of the Other at all costs and the concomitant denigration of the native. The conservative or classical liberal on the other hand is tolerant of difference but reserves his right to judge - after all why would you need to tolerate what you consider morally praiseworthy? I would argue that true tolerance of other cultures is linked to patriotism, which seems to be nearly dead in England (except for national football matches in which near-fascist fervour suddenly erupts among the populace). If you don't appreciate your own culture you are hardly likely to have a true assessment of another's, let alone an appreciation for it.

The barbarism of the Islamists is one thing, but the West might be the only civilisation that has ever produced its own barbarians. The spiritual degradation of many in our society nowadays is in certain ways more shocking than material poverty, and so the added population you mention is no guarantee against increasing barbarism. England is the trailblazer in this - with a fair percentage of the ethnically British population looking like they are on day release from prison and behaving like drunken chimps, in many places you'd be forgiven for thinking some terrible calamity had beset us, rather than us being one of the wealthiest and luckiest nations in the world.

Thank you Hector for you response!

I am very relieved and eager to study hard after reading your experience.

You know, I've been going through difficult times since my conversion. Everything in this world worries me a lot now, it seems that we are living at least something very similar to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World dystopia, I constantly wonder if I'm starting to go crazy or if I'm finally starting to see the absurdities in which lived in my childhood and adolescence.

I think Cardinal John Henry Newman was the one who said that it is not the fear of death that drives elderly people to religion; the religious aspect tends to develop when we get older because, as the passions calm down, the fantasy and the sensitivity are less excited, the rationality of man is less disturbed by desires and distractions. Thus, with the need to rely on something that remains, something solid, God emerges as the only stable firmament of reality: the truth, absolute and eternal.

So, I feel that I really need to study philosophy, I no longer want to be ignorant about the important issues of life and follow the consensus of society on them today. I am seriously thinking about becoming a Dominican friar after college, to dedicate my life to prayer and study, but I do not know if I will be able to fulfill the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience.

My email is this one: [email protected] I was wondering if there is a way to be notified when someone answers me hahahah.


You're not going crazy! Almost ever since I can remember I thought something was amiss with my society and the feeling just gets stronger and stronger the older I get. I think it is natural that as we grow older we become, or should become, more concerned about the wider world. Rather than being focused on trivial aspects of our own lives we start to have more and more concern for both our spiritual lives and the state of the world - that is if we mature correctly, which very few people now do it seems, instead projecting their own shallow self-obsessions onto the world (that being the root of the 'woke' phenomenon). Be glad you have your faith, otherwise recognition of our present predicament could lead to almost bottomless despair.

Have you ever come across the French Catholic philosopher Remi Brague? I discovered him a year or two ago, he's an astounding scholar and has very interesting things to say about our present predicament, which chime with your point that we need a transcendental horizon:

(links on here to his articles)


I've always really admired friars and monks and envied the life, I just know I can't forgo female companionship! The best thing if you can't hack the vows I think is to try and replicate that type of spiritually-focused, scholarly life as much as is possible with a reasonably like-minded spouse. Incidentally, if you are interested in monasticism, I'd recommend a very beautiful documentary film called Into Great Silence (Die grosse Stille) by the German director Philip Groening. It follows, with no commentary, the lives of the Carthusian monks at the Grand Chartreuse. It's very beautiful. I think Dr Vallicella would also enjoy it! It is available on DVD in the UK and the US, but I don't know about elsewhere!

I think there is a way you can set it up so you get notified when someone comments. I think you need a typepad account though.

If you'd like to continue this conversation, perhaps we should move it over to email, in case Dr Vallicella gets fed up of us using his site as a chatroom! Haha

Best wishes,


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