McCabe is very much of the generation of Anscombe, Geach, and Kenny, and it shows (this is, of course, a compliment). He possesses that altogether rar...moreMcCabe is very much of the generation of Anscombe, Geach, and Kenny, and it shows (this is, of course, a compliment). He possesses that altogether rare ability to say brilliant and true things in an utterly unpretentious and downright conversational style. It is clear that he has so thoroughly assimilated the thought of Aristotle, Aquinas, and Wittgenstein that he can discuss their essential insights without so much as referring to any text or historical problematic; he simply speaks about the issues in a way that immediately grips your attention and helps you to see how a certain tradition of thought has responded to them.
I had never heard of McCabe until this year, when I was at a conference on Alasdair MacIntyre. I wish I had discovered him sooner. (less)
Once again, Geach proves himself to be a first rate thinker. Somehow, in this small book, he has convinced me that I need to rethink my Thomist respon...moreOnce again, Geach proves himself to be a first rate thinker. Somehow, in this small book, he has convinced me that I need to rethink my Thomist response to the problem of evil, and that (even more shockingly) I should take Hobbes more seriously as a theologian.
And once again, Geach proves himself to be the master of the philosophical insult:
"In recent years, unsound philosophies have been defended by what I may call shyster logicians: some of the more dubious recent developments of modal logic could certainly be used to defend Descartes...Some modern modal logicians notoriously take possible worlds very seriously indeed; some of them even go to the length of saying that what you and I vulgarly call the actual world is simply the world we happen to live in...You mention any impossibility, and there's a possible world in which that isn't impossible but possible. And this is even further away out than Descartes would go; for he would certainly not wish to say that 'It is possible that God should not exist' is even possibly true. So a fortiori a shyster logician could fadge up a case for Descartes. But to my mind all that this shows is that modal logic is currently a rather disreputable discipline: not taht I think modal notions are inadmissible--on the contrary, I think they are indispensable--but that current professional standards in the discipline are quite low, and technical ingenuity is mistaken for philosophical rigor. On that showing, astrology would be rigorous." (p. 11)
Yes, he did just compare contemporary modal logic to astrology!
At any rate, as the title suggests, Geach's aim is to elucidate the concepts of providence and evil, and as one would expect, he meets the so-called problem of evil head on. In his chapter on omnipotence, Geach argues that no serious theological argument can treat the proposition 'God is omnipotent' as a premise. Rather, what we should say of God, is not that he is omnipotent, but that he is almighty (i.e., that he has power over all things, but not that he can do anything, no matter how one might construe 'do' or 'anything' in that statement). Surprisingly, he even rejects Thomas's understanding of omnipotence. But having done away with the classical formulation of the problem of evil, he thinks that a genuinely thorny problem remains, and devotes the rest of the book to trying to meet some of the challenges it presents. I especially appreciated his chapter on Hell, though it raised more questions than it answered, and it ultimately does not prove what it sets out to (viz., that God is not unjust in condemning the damned to Hell).
At any rate, never again will I teach the problem of evil without referring to these two chapters on omnipotence. (less)