A few weeks back I wrote a post about Catholic exorcisms, a perfect example of medieval thinking occurring in modern times.
Today I found another great example. A philosopher argues about the nature of the human soul by referring to the characteristics of angels.
I kid you not.
Edward Feser, who teaches philosophy at Pasadena City College, claims to know the following things about angels:
An angel is, by nature, a creature of pure intellect, which entails — given that, as Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophers argue, intellect is necessarily immaterial — that an angel is essentially immaterial. (The wings, white robes, and long blonde hair are symbolic — suitable for children’s prayer books but not for metaphysics!) Being immaterial, angels cannot be damaged or physically malformed the way an animal can. (Of course, angels can be morally defective — there are fallen angels, after all — but that is a failure of will, which is an immaterial power that follows upon intellect.) Indeed, being immaterial, they have no tendency toward corruption at all. They are of their nature immortal.
You hear that folks? The wings, white robes, and long blonde hair are suitable for children’s prayer books but the idea that angels are “pure intellect” which is “necessarily immaterial” is perfectly defensible! (Although I think we’re supposed to take Feser’s word for it, because he doesn’t actually provide a defense.)
Feser has also apparently made every effort to ignore the findings of neuroscience, which blow the ancient, fantastical idea of immaterial intellect out of the water. And he has a simplistic view of animal intellect, making no mention of the many species that have been observed to exhibit aspects of intelligence (including moral thinking) that have traditionally been considered as exclusively human.
There are many more things that can be said about Feser’s post, but there is hardly any point: it is deeply mired in indefensible medieval thinking. Nonetheless, it is worth reading because it reminds us that there are still people out there who think this way.