Aquinas Has Been Thoroughly Refuted
“Aquinas has been thoroughly refuted.”
Maybe your college friend said this. Perhaps even a professor. It’s not uncommon to hear such an assertion thrown out there. I’m using it here to illustrate this idea: you don’t need to rebut phantom arguments.
A phantom argument lacks substance, specificity, and clarity. It’s hardly an argument at all. It is often an appeal to authority, usually phantom authorities.
Here are some more examples of Phantom arguments:
- You know William Lane Craig’s arguments have been debunked by scholars, right?
- Modern philosophers refuted Aristotle. No one today considers his views a live option.
These arguments consist of hand waving. Don’t waste energy refuting them, because there is nothing to refute. How should you respond in conversation? Greg Koukl suggests something along the following lines.
You: I find Aquinas’s argument from motion to be quite convincing. Would you like to hear it?
Objector: Nice try, but Aquinas has been thoroughly refuted.
You: What if I told you that Aquinas scholars have refuted all of the refutations?
End of mock discussion.
By gesturing at your own phantom argument, you highlight the problem with the objector’s. Hopefully, he will realize he’s going to have to provide substance and specifics. If he doesn’t, then switch to asking questions:
You: Interesting, who has refuted him and what was their argument?
Or here’s another alternative.
You: I want to get at the truth here. Can you tell me what precisely is wrong with St. Thomas’s arguments?
When entering discussions on tough topics, be polite. But don’t let others get away with hand waving. Let alone hand waving the entire Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition! Or the entire history of western thought!
For the truth about Aquinas, read Edward Feser. He thoroughly defends the following two ideas.
- Aquinas has been widely misunderstood.
- Many of his ideas, including his arguments for God’s existence, are eminently defensible today.
Most people fail to refute Aquinas because they fail to get Aquinas right. Thankfully, Feser provides the much-needed antidote.