I posted this on Amazon some time ago, but it is my review to the book The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism by Edward Feser, and I wanted to keep a post of it on my own site for completeness sake. For those inclined to view the original, you can go here.
An Introduction as much as it is an Argument
I first heard about this book from the Statistician to the Stars! (http://www.wmbriggs.com). Having enjoyed the articles he wrote that comprised his review of the book, I was convinced I should pick up a copy to see what I might learn from it. I learned more than I expected in more areas of knowledge than I expected. I suppose that means the book exceeded my expectations.
The book is, among other things, a basic primer in classical philosophy, particularly of the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition; that is, the philosophy espoused by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas and the myriad folks between them and after them that followed right along. As such, the subtitle of the book, “A refutation to the new atheism”, requires a working knowledge of this tradition. Feser does a great job explaining the distinctions between the four causes, their implications in modern morality, and natural law. As I see it, the explanation does just as much to clarify and prepare you for his arguments against modernism (and its intellectually handicapped child, postmodernism), as it does muddy the waters of your thinking on other topics and tempt you to seek out more from the primary sources. I was interested in reading both Aristotle and Aquinas before encountering this book, but now I have another reason to do so.
Structurally, the book progresses from a critique of the sorry state of secular intellectual life in the West, to a chronological history of philosophy from the earliest Greeks to the “golden age” of Aquinas, to the darker times of the modern world. The book offers a solution: the modern view has failed, but the postmodern view has failed as well, so the solution is to go back to the top of the mountain of scholasticism, instead of continuing onward in the hope that the cliff has a bottom. I read the book carefully – at least as carefully as I could – and my overall conclusion is that I agree with much of it, but would like to learn more of the topic before truly finding a place to stand.
I recommend the book to anyone struggling with the questions of reason, morality, ethics, and religion in an age of doubt and science-worship. I also recommend it for any Christians who want a more solid structure to the basics of the worldview. For anyone who already has some familiarity with the topic, I would assume you could probably skip the tutorials on philosophy and jump right to the juicy sections towards the end of the book.