Skip to main content

C. S. Lewis on the Campaign Trail

This report appeared at the end of an article in The New York Times online today:

“Who is your favorite author?” Aleya Deatsch, 7, of West Des Moines asked Mr. Huckabee in one of those posing-like-a-shopping-mall-Santa moments.

Mr. Huckabee paused, then said his favorite author was Dr.
Seuss.

In an interview afterward with the news media, Aleya said she was somewhat surprised. She thought the candidate would be reading at a higher level.

“My favorite author is C. S. Lewis,” she said.

Perhaps Aleya should be running for president.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Will,

I am in a conversation on another thread were we are talking about Euthyphro's dilemma. Part of my argument is that goodness is uncreated and is and essential part of God's nature. I further state that to talk of Goodness without persons seem odd. The gentlemen replied and said, "Goodness is a property, not the concrete instance thereof. It can't be "seen" anymore than one can see time or see length. One can certainly see the *instances* of such properties, but do not confuse the *instances of such properties* with the properties themselves. For instance, one has the property of "being a unicorn" even though there is nothing that exemplifes it. So, under moral realism, I don't see how there must be a *person* that exemplifies good in order for there to be the *property* "good." Goodness exists (if moral realism is true) whether or not anything exemplifies it.

My reply questions were:

How could we possibly know that it does exist if it is NEVER exemplified?

How does one KNOW when it is exemplified?

What do you make of this?

Thanks for your help
WILL VAUS said…
I would agree with your statement: "to talk of Goodness without persons seems odd". It is more than odd, it is illogical. Either there was a personal beginning to the universe, or an impersonal beginning. If the beginning to the universe was impersonal then how did persons ever result? You cannot get A from -A. But just for the sake of argument, if the beginning to the universe was impersonal, then how the heck does it matter what any bit or collection of matter does? You might as well speak of "gobbledegook" as much as talk about good and evil.

I would ask the gentleman what he means by a "property". I doubt he can explain it in laymen's terms.

Your last two questions are also very good. The gentleman with whom you are in conversation is obviously more interested in philosophical discussion of "the good" than he is in doing good.

It reminds me of a comment by C. S. Lewis. Given two doors, one marked "heaven" and the other marked "discussion of heaven" some people may, curiously enough, choose the latter rather than the former.
Anonymous said…
Will, thanks for your reply.

If you have a chance, this is where we are at in our conversation. It is lengthy.

Thank you for your time.

His reply,

"How could we possibly know that it does exist if it is NEVER exemplified?

How does one KNOW when it is exemplified?"

That's irrelevant. The inability to *know* something is irrelevant to a thing's *existence*. There are possible worlds in which there are no minds at all, and yet abstracta persist all the same.

But, even in worlds lacking good altogether, the argument from truthmakers holds true. Hence, abstracta are necessary, and exist in worlds even in worlds where we don't exist or lack the faculties to know them.

"Sept many moral realists (e.g., Shafer-Landau) argue that moral facts do not explain anything. In fact, it seems that we could explain almost any action in non-moral terms, and have a full explanation. So, your response isn't obviously true."

They (under moral realist terms) certainly seem to explain *moral actions*. Moral facts (in conjunction with other facts) explain why good people do what they do, what it *means* for something to be good or bad, etc.

My reply,

I agree that, “The inability to *know* something is irrelevant to a thing's *existence*.”

But the abstract posited must be exemplified in order to propose it. Why not say that sajkdfhajkhwfh exists? We don’t know that sajkdfhajkhwfh doesn’t exist. But surely it is unreasonable to randomly posit abstracts without exemplification. To say that goodness exists and we don’t know what it is, nor never could know what it is, is as meaningful as talking about, “sajkdfhajkhwfh.”

Please explain to me what goodness is. And how you base that claim objectivity.

His reply,

"But the abstract posited must be exemplified in order to propose it."

Not at all. Nothing exemplifies the following abstracta for instance:

"Round squares"
"Being a unicorn"
"Being a dragon"
Etc

"Why not say that sajkdfhajkhwfh exists?"

Because "sajkdfhajkkhwfh" is a string of phonetic symbols that fails to refer. The term here, unless you define them, doesn't refer to anything.

All I *can* say however is that there are an uncountable infinitude of abstracta, most of which I'm not even aware of.

"We don’t know that sajkdfhajkhwfh doesn’t exist."

Yes, because the term doesn't mean anything, unless you define it. That's the point of language, to communicate concepts in a conventional framework. We have terms like "unicorn" or "square" and they are nothing more than strings of phonetic symbols, but they *signify* [which we have agreed upon by convention] certain concepts, or more accurately, certain abstracta. So, unless you can define that string of phonetic symbols to refer to some sort of concept or whatever, it doesn't even mean anything in the first place.

Do not confuse a string of symbols for the abstracta itself. All we *can* say is that there are many abstracta that we do not have knowledge of.

But, that doesn't prevent the existence of abstracta at all, since abstracta are necessary, per the argument from truthmakers. What we have here is a communication problem, not a metaphysical one. You throwing out strings of phonetic symbols that fail to refer doesn't disprove anything, I think.

"But surely it is unreasonable to randomly posit abstracts without exemplification."

No, see above. I can randomly posit, for instance, this abstracta: "round squares." Nothing exemplifies that or *can* exemplify that. Or, "purple, polka-dotted dragons." Nothing exemplifies that either.

"To say that goodness exists and we don’t know what it is, nor never could know what it is, is as meaningful as talking about, “sajkdfhajkhwfh.”"

No, it isn't. See above. By the way, if you noticed, I never said that we *actually* do not know what goodness is or could never know what it is, but that in a *possible world* there are persons that do not have knowledge of goodness and yet goodness exists nonetheless, since goodness is a necessary property, since all abstracta are necessary, per the argument from truthmakers.

"Please explain to me what goodness is."

Goodness is that which ought to be.

"And how you base that claim objectivity."

What do you mean here?
WILL VAUS said…
The only additional comment I would have is that all people on earth do have some idea of what goodness is. As Lewis points out in "Mere Christianity", evil is merely good that has been corrupted. But once evil totally corrupts the good then evil itself will cease to exist--because existence itself is a good.

If I were you, I would read through "Mere Christianity" again, especially the chapter(s) dealing with dualism. Lewis points out how dualism is not a viable belief system because when we are talking about good and evil the very discussion suggests something or someone higher up who "sits in judgement" and says that one thing or person or event is evil while the other is good. Thus the very discussion of good and evil suggests there is a god, or a mind, behind the universe which cares about righteous conduct.

I do not agree that morals can be explained away. Just as when one tries to explain away reason, when one attempts to explain away morality, one is sawing off the very branch one is sitting on which enables the discussion in the first place.

But I am afraid that like the dwarfs at the end of "The Last Battle" your conversation partner is "so afraid of being taken in" that he cannot be taken out of his delusion.

You might find Victor Reppert's book "C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea" and his Dangerous Idea blogspot to be of some help.

Popular posts from this blog

C. S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Arthur Greeves
In light of recent developments in the United States on the issue of gay marriage, I thought it would be interesting to revisit what C. S. Lewis thought about homosexuality. Lewis, who died in 1963, never wrote about same-sex marriage, but he did write, occasionally, about the topic of homosexuality in general. In the following I am quoting from my book, Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis. For detailed references and footnotes, you may obtain a copy from Amazon, your local library, or by clicking on the book cover at the right....
In Surprised by Joy, Lewis claimed that homosexuality was a vice to which he was never tempted and that he found opaque to the imagination. For this reason he refused to say anything too strongly against the pederasty that he encountered at Malvern College, where he attended school from the age of fifteen to sixteen. Lewis did not rate pederasty as the greatest evil of the school because he felt the cruelty displayed at Malver…

A Prayer at Ground Zero

Christmas Day Thought from Henri Nouwen

"I keep thinking about the Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar. This probably is the most meaningful "crib" I have ever seen. Three small woodcarved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand - nearly too small to attract attention at all.
"But then - a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world.
"While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. While witnessing the most human of human events, I see the majesty of God appearing on the horizon of my existence. While being moved by the ge…

Sheldon Vanauken Remembered

A good crowd gathered at the White Hart Cafe in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday, February 7 for a powerpoint presentation I gave on the life and work of Sheldon Vanauken. Van, as he was known to family and friends, was best known as the author of A Severe Mercy, the autobiography of his love relationship with his wife Jean "Davy" Palmer Davis.

While living in Oxford, England in the early 1950's, Van and Davy came to faith in Christ through the influence of C. S. Lewis. Van was a professor of history and English literature at Lynchburg College from 1948 until his retirement around 1980. A Severe Mercy tells the story of Davy's death from a mysterious liver ailment in 1955 and Van's subsequent dealing with grief. Van himself died from cancer in 1996.

It was my privilege to know Van for a brief period of time during the last year of his life. However, present at the White Hart on February 7 were some who knew Van far better than I did--Floyd Newman, one of Van's…

Mentoring

The first of four posts by yours truly is now up on the Next Leadership Blog. Check it out by clicking here: Mentoring.

C. S. Lewis Tour--London

The final two days of our C. S. Lewis Tour of Ireland & England were spent in London. Upon our arrival we enjoyed a panoramic tour of the city that included Westminster Abbey. A number of our tour participants chose to tour the inside of the Abbey where they were able to view the new C. S. Lewis plaque in Poets' Corner.


Though London was not one of Lewis' favorite places to visit, there are a number of locations associated with him. One which I have noted in my new book, In the Footsteps of C. S. Lewis, is Endsleigh Palace Hospital (25 Gordon Street, London) where Lewis recovered from his wounds received during the First World War....


Not too far away from this location is King's College, part of the University of London, located on the Strand, just off the River Thames. This is the location where Lewis gave the annual commemoration oration entitled The Inner Ring on 14 December 1944....


C. S. Lewis occasionally attended theatrical events in London. One of his favorites w…

Fact, Faith, Feeling

"Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where to get off', you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith." Mere Christianity


Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, I remember seeing the graphic illustration above of what C. S. Lewis has, here, so eloquen…

C. S. Lewis's Parish Church

The first time I visited Oxford, in 1982, the porter at Magdalen College didn't even recognize the name--C. S. Lewis. I had asked him if he could give me directions to Lewis's former home in Headington Quarry. Obviously, he could not and did not. (Directions to Lewis's former home are now much easier to obtain. Just click here for directions and to arrange a tour: The Kilns.)
Things have changed a lot since 1982. Now Lewis is remembered all around Oxford. At the pub where the Inklings met, at Magdalen College, and not least--at his parish church--Holy Trinity Headington Quarry. The first time I visited the church I only saw the outside and Lewis's grave, shared with his brother Warnie.
Since that first visit I have returned to Holy Trinity a number of times and worshiped there. Father Tom Honey is a real gem. Under his leadership the congregation has grown and now includes a number of young families. I was overwhelmed by the number of children who came into the sanctuary…

A Christmas Psalm

Psalm 110
The Lord says to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet."

The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;
you will rule in the midst of your enemies.
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy majesty,
from the womb of the dawn
you will receive the dew of your youth.

The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
"You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek."

The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook beside the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms,
Chapter XII, paragraphs 4 & 5:

"We find in our Prayer Books that Psalm 110 is one of those appointed for Christmas Day. We may at first be surprised by this. There is nothing in it about peace and good-will, nothing remotely sugg…

C. S. Lewis on Church Attendance

A friend's blog written yesterday (http://wesroberts.typepad.com/) got me thinking about C. S. Lewis's experience of the church. I wrote this in a comment on Wes Robert's blog:
It is interesting to note that C. S. Lewis attended the same small church for over thirty years. The experience was nothing spectacular on a weekly basis. For most of those years Lewis didn't care much for the sermons; he even sat behind a pillar so that the priest would not see the expression on his face. He attended the service without music because he so disliked hymns. And he left right after holy communion was served probably because he didn't like to engage in small talk with other parishioners after the service. But that life-long obedience in the same direction shaped Lewis in a way that nothing else could.
Lewis was once asked, "Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?"
His answer was as follows: &q…