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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.

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.


Anonymous said…

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
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"

"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?
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.

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Psalm 110
The Lord says to my Lord:
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until I make your enemies
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