14 May 2015

Ex Machina | Movie Review

Artificial intelligence is clearly the menace of the cinematic hour. The old menace posed by the Skynet of the “Terminator” franchise has taken on additional credibility in the era of “big data,” which offers the possibility of algorithmic analysis on a heretofore undreamt-of scale. Alex Garland’s recent thriller “Ex Machina,” however, trades guns for words and explosions for psychological turbulence, raising fundamental questions within a deeply intimate context. “Ex Machina” opens as Caleb Smith (Domhnall

John Ehrett 0
01 May 2015

Life, Dreams, and Everything

When I was eighteen years old I purchased the film Waking Life, by director Richard Linklater. Its premise, plot, and production epitomize our postmodern moment. Linklater develops a story about dreams within dreams, in which a character travels seamlessly through surreal worlds while witnessing a plethora of philosophical conversations about life and death. The tagline reads, “Are we sleepwalking through our waking state, or wake-walking through our dreams?” Utilizing stunning visual effects,1 a haunting score,

Benjamin Winter 1
17 Apr 2015

The Love that Moves the Sun and Other Stars

As the geometer who sets himself To square the circle and who cannot find, For all his thought, the principle he needs; Just so was I on seeing this new vision. I wanted to see how our image fuses Into the circle and finds its place in it; Yet my wings were not meant for such a flight — Except that then my mind was struck by lightning, Through which my longing was at last

Benjamin Winter 3
03 Apr 2015

The Natural Desire to See God?

The human person—with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, his longings for the infinite and for happiness—questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the “seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material,” can have its origin only in God (CCC 33). Such says the Catechism of the Catholic

Benjamin Winter 8
07 Mar 2015

Weekly Reads (March 7)

Happy weekend, dear readers! Here is a round-up of different religion, theology, and current events articles from our own authors and across the internet. The following articles do not necessarily reflect the views or mission of Conciliar Post. These articles have been selected based on their prevalence across popular blogs and social media and their relevance to current events. We invite you to engage in friendly and positive discussion about these articles. If you read

Laura Norris 2
02 Mar 2015

A Defense of Nagel, Part IV

The Problem of Consciousness for the Corpuscular Cosmos The biologist Kenneth Miller gives a charitable response to Nagel by interpreting him to say there are fundamental issues, like consciousness, which makes the materialist program in biology face obstacles it will not overcome in the near future. Nagel’s book today, Miller says, parallels Erwin Schrödinger’s book, What is Life? in 1956. According to Miller, Schrodinger said “that our then-current understanding of physics was incapable of explaining

Ryan Shinkel 0
11 Feb 2015

Jupiter Ascending | Movie Review

The trailers for “Jupiter Ascending” were works of art. I’ve seen a lot of movie promos, but few have grabbed my attention like the artfully composed teasers for Andy and Lana Wachowski’s latest high-dollar project. Despite disappointing reviews, I figured I’d give it a shot – after all, it looked like a nice distraction in the midst of art-movie season (and bitter New England wintertime). Simply put, “Jupiter Ascending” is a hot mess of a

John Ehrett 3
05 Feb 2015


What is it that causes people to act against their own self-interest? Two of the most popular conservative thinkers of the last century both addressed this question at a very personal level, which seemed odd to me until I started thinking about it more. At the national level, this last century was the age of Communism, the Great Depression, and Holocaust clean-up, when people were talking in depth about the need to help those less

Pepper Darlington 9
Photo of a window in a decaying wall, by _Marion http://pixabay.com/en/users/_Marion-36647/)
30 Jan 2015

Why the Problem of Evil is Incoherent

There’s something economic about theodicies. “After calculating the costs and benefits, God decided that x was worth the price of y.” Plug in “free will” or “a habitable planet” for x. Plug in “murders” or “hurricanes” for y. There’s no money involved, but it still feels kind of crass. This is not to say that theodicies aren’t important. They help us see that theism isn’t irrational, even if the attributes of God and the world

Micah Tillman 12
23 Jan 2015

Seminal Christian Theologians: Pseudo-Dionysius on Hierarchy

Hierarchy is a “sacred order, a state of understanding, and an activity approximating as closely as possible the divine…” –Pseudo-Dionysius, Celestial Hierarchy 3, 164D. At this point theologically, the four greatest influences on my views (beyond Scripture and Magisterium) are Bonaventure, Pseudo-Dionysius and Augustine, and Origen. Throughout the foreseeable future, I will be posting articles about central ideas in the thought of these magnanimous individuals (series title: “Seminal Christian Theologians:). To begin, I treat the

Benjamin Winter 2
22 Jan 2015

A Defense of Nagel, Part III

The Corpuscular Cosmos of the Early Modern Philosophers Now the “strictly mathematical and materialist conception of the natural order the early moderns bequeathed to us,” that Edward Feser mentioned in my first paper, refers to the mechanical philosophers. Take the case of Rene Descartes: in his mechanics, he argues that if a person knew enough, he should be able to reduce chemistry and biology to mechanics. The process of how a seed develops into an

Ryan Shinkel 1
26 Dec 2014

A Defense of Nagel, Part II

Author Ryan Shinkel offers the second part of his defense of Nagel, considering the philosophical role of the evolutionary biologist and Nagel’s understanding of the subjective life.

Ryan Shinkel 0
02 Dec 2014

Reflections on Suffering (Part Two)

In my previous post, I reflected on some of the answers which have been offered to the “question of suffering,” the query about why there is evil and suffering in the world if there is a good and all-powerful God. In today’s post, I hope to begin crafting an “answer” to this question—not an answer in an absolute sense, but rather an perception and understanding by which we can try to make some sense of

Jacob Prahlow 3
19 Nov 2014

In Defense of Nagel (Part One)

The Problem of Consciousness in a Corpuscular Cosmos: A Defense of Nagel and a Critique of the Mechanistic Metaphysics of Intelligent Design and Metaphysical Naturalism In this four part series, I survey some of the reactions to Thomas Nagel’s recent book, Mind and Cosmos (2012), and use them to elucidate why most of them misunderstand his thesis; from there, I use Nagel’s writing as a springboard to give an overall critique of physicalist accounts of

Ryan Shinkel 1
18 Nov 2014

Reflections on Suffering (Part One)

Why do we suffer? This is a question which, unfortunately, we all must ask at some point in our lives. The 2011-2012 academic year was a year in which this question took on a special relevance in my own life, first in a theology class devoted to wrestling with this question and then in my own life with the illness and death of my Grandfather. Life is painful when the lessons of the classroom become

Jacob Prahlow 3
11 Nov 2014

Empiricism, You’ve Got Some ‘Splaining to Do

I recently took part in a Facebook conversation about morality in which one of the participants said they preferred to avoid overtly religious rhetoric and Christian presuppositions in debates with non-believers. Full disclosure: I was a hard-headed atheist in my youth, and to this day I greatly appreciate it when a Christian refrains from using a debate as an excuse for proselytizing. Simply telling a skeptic that he can’t be a good person unless he

Chris Casberg 2
07 Oct 2014

Kierkegaardian Reflections on the Present Age

Some authors make a lasting impression on one’s mind, for good or for bad. For me, one such writer is Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55), whom I first engaged while an undergraduate at Valparaiso University. While reading Kierkegaard, one cannot help but be flummoxed by large portions of his prose—there’s simply too much there to engage in its fullness. You are like a kindergartener, who is desperately trying to make sense of a chalkboard filled with Einstein’s

Jacob Prahlow 3
19 Sep 2014

The Ethics of Evil

Because religious institutions have placed such emphasis on avoiding evil, those who never do anything good consider themselves to be moral people. Contemporary understanding of ethics demonstrated by mottos of “Do No Evil,” “Just Say No,” or “DARE to Resist…” highlight certain actions that should definitely be avoided. However, the very act of defining something as off-limits often stirs a desire within human beings to cross that line. What is worth protecting with these rules?

Charles Heyworth 0
22 Aug 2014

Start Walking

An Ancient Remedy for Modern Ills. Some years ago, while visiting my grandparents in the central Pennsylvania mountains, my sisters and I went out for a long walk. It was a brown winter afternoon in a depressed area. We walked along the empty, curving road, remarking on the things we passed: a repair shop with misspelled words on the sign; some goats in a frozen barnyard. Then came the moment that has made me remember

Guest Author 1