Book Review: ‘The Apathetic God: Exploring the Contemporary Relevance of Divine Impassibility’, by Daniel Castelo

The Apathetic God: Exploring the Contemporary Relevance of Divine Impassibility‘, by Daniel Castelo, Wipf and Stock, 172 pp. $17.60

Impassibility is something of a perennial topic for me. I can generally read just about anything on it and come away feeling that the time spent reading was time well-spent, and Daniel Castelo’s short but sweet little volume is definitely time well-spent.

One of the strengths of this book is that it’s not merely a historical study or a survey of the doctrine of impassibility – though both of these things do comprise part of the book – but it is also a sustained interaction with contemporary theology of a passibilist persuasion. Castelo spends the bulk of the interaction with Moltmann (who seems to function as something like an archetype for modern theology), and this interaction, as I’ll note below, is both appreciative and critical. Continue reading

The Birth of the Subject as the Death of Art

It is virtually unquestioned that the essence of art lies in the expression of the self. To give a dangerously vague definition of this doctrine: Art is the taking of something inner by way of some medium and rendering it external. It’d be fair to say that this is a watered-down and popular version of expressionism, which is a doctrine that ‘stresses the artist’s emotional attitude toward himself and the world,’ (H.W. Janson, History of Art, p. 666). This doctrine may have its origin in Kant, for whom aesthetic judgement of taste cannot be subsumed under any universal law or generalization, which seems to kick off the ‘turn to the subject’ in aesthetics – that is, post-Kant, aesthetics is primarily concerned with the inner state of the subject. This isn’t too far from romanticism – indeed, expressionism and romanticism are in some cases so similar it can be difficult to distinguish them: Continue reading

Sellars and the Origin of the Theory of Folk Psychology

In Saving Belief, Lynne Rudder-Baker takes to task one of the two central doctrines within reductionist/eliminativist (RE) philosophies of mind: the doctrine of folk-psychology as an empirical theory. This doctrine, put simply, states that what traditional philosophers take to be the very ‘stuff’ of the mind – propositional attitudes, for example – is a kind of empirical theory and framework used in every-day, common-sense interaction and prediction of behaviour. Paul Churchland defines it thus: Continue reading

A Monstrous Indifference, by Joy Overcome: Pt. 1

The reader of this essay may at first be excused for the feeling of bewilderment that is sure to set upon her on her reading of the title. Cormac McCarthy and H.P Lovecraft are hardly literary bedfellows, and to draw the central themes of their writing together by interpreting an independently developed video game may appear to many to be a futile, as well inappropriate, exercise in interpretation. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Calvin, Barth and Reformed Theology’, eds. Neil B. MacDonald, Carl Trueman

Calvin, Barth and Reformed Theology‘, eds. Neil B. MacDonald, Carl Trueman, Paternoster, 196 pp. $26.00

This collection of seven essays – six of which directly compare the theology of John Calvin and Karl Barth, with one focusing just on Calvin – might be some of the best engagement with Barth’s theology from a Reformed perspective I’ve read. As a word of warning, these essays for the most part clearly favour Calvin and Reformed orthodoxy over Barth, which should only upset Barthians (generally a good sign). Being such a slim volume is a strength here, as the authors of the various essayshave plenty of room to breathe and develop their themes. Since there are only seven essays, I’ll offer a brief reflection on each. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘The Sacrament of the Word Made Flesh: The Eucharistic Theology of Thomas F. Torrance’, by Robert J. Stamps

The Sacrament of the Word Made Flesh: The Eucharistic Theology of Thomas F. Torrance, by Robert J. Stamps, Wipf And Stock, 352 pp. $41.00

In this volume, Robert Stamps attempts a systematic exposition of T.F. Torrance’s sacramental theology. This had to have been a daunting task, given the massive number of footnotes from both well-known and very obscure writings by Torrance on the topic of the sacraments. This is probably one of the strengths of the book: the sources are handled superbly, and even folks who are somewhat familiar with Torrance are bound to read something of his they haven’t seen before here. This could almost serve as a primer for Reformed sacramental theology in general, since Calvin (and to a lesser extent Luther and Roman Catholicism) is a prominent conversation and at times sparring partner. It’s safe to say that I learned a good deal not only of Torrance but of Calvin’s understanding of the sacrament here.

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Notes on Naturalizing the Mind

Naturalizing intentionality is easy. We could go Searle’s route, and argue for a causal, but not ontological, reduction of intentionality and intentional states, as well as their emergence from brain processes. Intentionality here would be inseparable from consciousness, and would be a way of representing the world so we can act on it. Keeping with Searle, an arrangement of particles by an agent would be an example of derived intentionality, the same kind of intentionality that language has. Continue reading