Log in

There are almost no letters to Tolkien in 3 vols of CSL's Collected Letters and no explaination as far as I can see. Does anybody know why?
“In the world of sense there is an order of efficient causes” (Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 2, Article 3). This proposition is plainly seen in nature. Take a tree for example. Read on....
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
- C. S. Lewis

Many have said the same of science. The difference being that strict science, defined as the collection and interpretation of empirical data, is not a self-sufficient source of light. That is to say, it depends for its validity (both in fact and in the scientist’s own mind) upon a priori assumptions about the universe (e.g., the uniformity of natural phenomena under identical conditions).

The fact that much of the modern scientist’s rational suppositions have been protected from the ordinary scrutiny of logic by being lumped under the category of “science”–which is properly reserved for the empirical–is a testament to the arrogance particular to the age. The victory has been won by force of will, not by force of reason.

And when modern people realize this, they will discover not only that science (or natural philosophy, as it used to be called) is not an independent enterprise, but that it sheds light on far less than had been supposed. Then we will find that opinions by scientists about matters of metaphysics and ethics are of no more weight than anyone else’s, as everyone’s opinion is seen in light of its own merits and not in the authority of the speaker when the speaker is shown not to be speaking in his field of expertise.

When science submits to the philosophical scrutiny to which everything else must be submitted, then we will find not only that one cannot “see everything else by it,” but that many of its present assumptions about the world are spoken without authority and are plainly false.

Dinner at the Kilns

During my term at University of Oxford, the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society was treated to dinner at C.S. Lewis' house, the Kilns. This is my experience of that glorious night:

Dinner at the Kilns (2/27/07)
Lost CS Lewis manuscript found in the Bodleian Library

Professor discovers part of lost C. S. Lewis book manuscript
The article Beebe wrote documenting his discovery, “Language and Human Nature Manuscript Fragment Found: C. S. Lewis On Language and Meaning,” will be published next year in the Journal Seven: An Anglo-American Literary Review.

Beebe discovers unpublished C.S. Lewis manuscript

Lewis, Liar, or Lunatic

It always frustrates me when I come across people who have an interest in C.S. Lewis or theology but possess no discernible faith, who share none of the same joys in reading Christian books, and who respond with confusion and manifest ignorance whenever one tries to speak of the theological themes in them. It frustrates me all the more when they are professors of theology (or, more commonly, "comparative religion," and who themselves can best be described as comparatively religious) or editors of journals whose main interest is Christian thinkers. These are the people who accuse one of giving "highly spiritualized" (may the devil take the word) interpretations of books by authors who, in all probability, invested more theological meaning into them than one can ever hope to draw out.

I miss the days when Christians were simply fed to the lions. What I cannot tolerate is the lions' sitting in somber judgment over the Christians' book clubs and periodicals.

So let me say this just once: Lewis was the most thoroughly Christian man that has been seen in the world in last few hundred years. Let us therefore have no more patronizing nonsense about occasional "spiritual" symbols in his works, or about his being a great intellectual in spite of his regrettable belief in the supernatural, or about his true value being how well he expressed himself. The supernatural, as it is called, is at the very center of Lewis' life. You can spit at him and call him a fool, or you can lock him up like a lunatic, or you can call him a prophet and let him lead you to his Lord and Master. But no more of this calling him a mere writer of children's books and wise anecdotes. He did not leave that option open to us. He did not intend to.
Some time ago, I read an article on apes in a scientific journal. In it the author (I don't remember her name) spoke about why one ape would sometimes kill another--but "kill" was not the word she used. The word that was repeated throughout the article was "murder."

Now the author (who was of course a materialist) knew exactly what she was doing. By using the word "murder" to describe these killings she was not elevating the ape to the level of moral knowledge and culpability; she was lowering men* to the level of apes.

Now maybe this sort of language is common practice in scientific journals. I wouldn't know; I rarely read them. Perhaps some group of scientists in some previous bandy of essays had settled the matter between themselves and established a common usage. But to me and (arguably) all other common people, who are not used to having their moral language emptied of its meaning so tacitly, it seems like a nasty trick.

For us, "murder" still means the unlawful killing of one human being by another. For us, the matter is not settled. So from our point of view, to speak as if "murder" meant something less than a breach of the Moral Law by a rational being with an immortal soul is outright, question-begging arrogance.

Isn't that so? I'd be interested to know what other linguistic assaults go on undetected.

* By "men" I mean all human beings, not limited to the masculine gender. Such was once one of the meanings of that pronoun. Like the word "hero," which can refer to a man or a woman, while "heroine" can only refer to a woman, so "man" and "men" may refer to men and women, while "woman" can only refer to women.

Tea with Walter Hooper

In 2007, my wife and I went to Oxford, England, where I studied for a term at University of Oxford. During my time there, I joined the Oxford University C.S. Lewis Society and met Walter Hooper, C.S. Lewis' former friend and secretary and posthumous editor and biographer. Walter and I quickly became friends, and have corresponded ever since. Here are the two teas (in England, tea is more a meeting than a beverage) I had with Walter in is flat in Oxford, as I recorded them in my blog afterwards:

Tea with Walter Hooper, Part 1 (1/21/07)

Tea with Walter Hooper, Part 2 (2/18/07)
I had a dream last night. My wife and I were in England, taking the GRE. After we were finished taking the test, I made an observation to the proctor.

The question on the registration form asking one's gender had been replaced. The new wording of the question was so technical that at first I didn't comprehend it, but came to understand that it amounted to, "Are your reproductive organs on the inside or the outside of your body, or some kind of mixture?"

At once a question sprang into my mind. But when I reached the proctor, and saw how serious and grim she looked, I refrained from asking the question I wanted to ask. Instead, I pointed out the question on the form and meekly said something like, "Sometimes political correctness makes things unintelligible, huh?" She just looked at me with the characteristic sternness of some people who give themselves the label of "liberal."

Later, I found myself in a shopping mall. My wife and friends were with me, and my family, and--without explanation or surprise on anyone's part--Leonard Nimoy. At least I could put my philosophical question to him, I thought.

I wanted to ask him whether the he thought the change in the question on the form from one of gender--with its implications of possessing a fixed essence, of a distinction in kind between male and female, between masculinity and femininity, and of their complimentary nature--to one of mere sex--a sterile observation about the particular orientation of certain organs to the body--constituted an ideological shift, and (as I thought) an unfortunate one.

I started to ask him this, but he put his hand on my shoulder, smiled benignly, and said, "You attend to silence,* son,"--he might have said "reflection"--"and that is good. But sometimes it is not reason but feeling that is called for."

In other words, "I'm too old and too tired to think about whatever philosophical question you're about to ask me." I was hoping he would have been a little more like Spock, who was always ready to consider what he referred to (sometimes erroneously) as "logic."

My friends smiled too. It didn't matter. I was used to being patronized and my intellectual curiosity being met with condescension, as if inquiry were the special hobby of the young and capricious. But I was still too intrigued by the question to care.

At that point I woke up and thought that I might at least put the question to the LJ CSL Society. So I ask you, dear friends, what would be the meaning of such a change from a question of gender to one of mere sex?

* By silence he meant abstract thought, which one can only indulge in if one manages to momentarily put aside all the immediate concerns, difficulties, and pursuits of the present. That is true as far as it goes, but unfortunately philosophy has come to be considered a kind of leisure activity, like a useless hobby that is of no interest to others, rather than the infinitely practical practice of living.

The Four Loves

The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis. Video by Travis Lambert.

This is an abridgment I made of Lewis' famous BBC radio broadcasts (the longest surviving audio footage of his voice) on the four loves--storge, philia, eros, and agape. Original running time: ca. 135 min.