Category Archive 'C.S. Lewis'

08 May 2017

The Attritionist Letters

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Fabius Maximus, with permission from the Marine Corps Gazette, published seven Attrionist Letters to a particular Captain Wormwood from General Screwtape discussing recently successful modifications of military doctrine.

26 Mar 2017

Philosophy Professor Writes: “Tolerance Is Not the Goal”

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Alan Levinovitz is (God help America!) an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at James Madison University.

Rod Dreher was appalled.

that a Stanford and University of Chicago-trained philosophy and religion professor (who holds an M.Div) believes that the proper way to address Charles Murray’s arguments is by shouting them down. Let the record show that a Stanford-and-Chicago-trained philosophy and religion professor believes that we should not allow the arguments of C.S. Lewis — C.S. Lewis! — to be heard, because people might come to believe them. And let the record show that this did not appear in a magazine of the radical left, but in a center-left publication owned by Jeff Bezos, one of the richest and most powerful men in the world.

Alan Levinovitz declared in Slate that Tolerance is not the goal, “the truth” of which he personally happens to be in possession of is.

Progress today depends, as it always has, on the refusal to tolerate falsehood and immorality. In certain circumstances proper intolerance will demand reasoned discourse; in others it will demand shouting and breaking the law. We may disagree about how to fight for what’s right, but that disagreement should come in the context of recognizing our proud participation in a long, necessary history of virtuous intolerance. Only then can we hope to defend truth unfettered by hypocrisy and self-contradiction.

Back in the 1950s, when supporting Totalitarianism was looked upon as reprehensible by normal ordinary Americans, the Left cried out for Tolerance. We still hear constantly about the horrors of McCarthyism and the national reign of terror in which a small number of disloyal radicals faced social and professional disapproval for supporting an aggressive alien ideology that 37,000 Americans had recently laid down their lives to oppose in Korea. In those days, the University of California at Berkeley prohibited the on-campus distribution of Communist propaganda and used the laws of trespass to exclude outside agitators.

The Left responded with the so-called Free Speech Movement of 1964-1965 demanding Tolerance. The Left got its tolerance for political agitation, propagandizing, and on-campus organization and recruiting, and a half century later the Left owns all the campuses. Now, the necessity and desirability of Tolerance is over. All of which proves that the fainting liberals of the 1950s and ’60s who were moved by the Left’s hypocritical please for tolerance were simply suckers.

26 Aug 2016

C.S. Lewis’s Reading List

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CSLewis

Intellectual Takeout:

Brenton Dickieson has done something kind of cool.

He has taken C.S. Lewis’ book An Experiment in Criticism—in which Lewis attempts to answer the question “what makes a great book?”—and listed in chronological order all of the great books that Lewis references.

The list serves not only as a window into the knowledge-base of one of the great authors of our time, but also as a reading program for those interested in preserving a Western tradition that is in danger of being forgotten.

20 Aug 2015

Ayn Rand’s Narnia

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HelpingIsFutile

Mallory Ortberg delivers another of her amusing Ayn Rand parodies. This time imagining what you’d get if Ayn Rand had written C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories. Personally, I find them much improved.

If the witch understood the true meaning of sacrifice, she might have interpreted the Deep Magic differently, for when a willing victim who has committed no treachery, dies in a traitor’s stead, the stone table will crack and even death itself will turn backwards.”

“Oh, how interesting,” Lucy said. “What is the true meaning of sacrifice, Aslan?”

“It is an artificial anti-concept,” Aslan said in his low, golden voice. “It is the ultimate force of destruction. The very word self less suggests self-immolation, a complete annihilation of one’s own self for the sake of others. Sacrifice destroys knowledge, skill, talent, usefulness, all in the name of duty. It destroys love and self-esteem, which are the same thing. Self-sacrifice is an immoral nightmare.”

“I don’t quite understand,” Lucy said. “Does this mean Edmund is going to die instead of you?”

“Let us put it this way,” Aslan said. “If I exchange a penny for a dollar, have I made a sacrifice?”

“No,” Lucy said.

“But if I were to exchange a dollar for a penny instead,” Aslan said, sounding rather as if he had a locomotive in his throat, “would I be making a sacrifice then?”

“Y-e-s,” Lucy said.

“And you understand why your brother is not the dollar, in this analogy,” he said.

“So Edmund must die,” Lucy said triumphantly, “or else you would be betraying your own values!”

“Exactly,” Aslan said. “Have a penny.”

Edmund burst into tears, like a Communist.

“Oh, do be quiet,” Lucy said to Edmund. “I want to listen to Aslan explain his plans for a transcontinental railroad into Calormen again.”

Read the whole thing.

02 Apr 2014

Some Tastes Differ

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Unknown, Sir Walter Raleigh, 1593, University of North Carolina.

[In the Fall of 1944, at the Bird & Bush, C.S. Lewis told J.R.R. Tolkien and the other Inklings about an elderly lady he knew]:

“She was a student of English in the past days of Sir Walter Raleigh. At her viva she was asked: What period would you have liked to live in Miss B? In the 15C. said she. Oh come, Miss B., wouldn’t you have liked to meet the Lake poets? No, sir, I prefer the society of gentlemen. Collapse of viva.”

–Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to his son Christopher Tolkien, 6 October 1944, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 95.

08 May 2013

Tolkien’s “Philomythus to Misomythus”

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Tolkien wrote Philomythus to Misomythus as a rejoinder to one [C.S. Lewis] who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though ‘breathed through silver’.

I will not walk with your progressive apes,
erect and sapient. Before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends
if by God’s mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

23 Jan 2013

From Wittgenstein to Dennett

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Ludwig Wittgenstein

Daniel Dennett is a distinguished philosopher, at least, with respect to Philosophy of Mind. As a kind of philosophical sideline, however, he follows the unfortunate example of certain other contemporary professors and operates as a polemicist on behalf of bien pensant liberalism.

Dennett recently offered this supposedly well-tempered response to the horrifying militarism of the barbarous administration of George W. Bush.

Suppose that we face some horrific, terrible enemy, another Hitler or something really, really bad, and here’s two different armies that we could use to defend ourselves. I’ll call them the Gold Army and the Silver Army; same numbers, same training, same weaponry. They’re all armored and armed as well as we can do. The difference is that the Gold Army has been convinced that God is on their side and this is the cause of righteousness, and it’s as simple as that. The Silver Army is entirely composed of economists. They’re all making side insurance bets and calculating the odds of everything.

Which army do you want on the front lines? It’s very hard to say you want the economists, but think of what that means. What you’re saying is we’ll just have to hoodwink all these young people into some false beliefs for their own protection and for ours. It’s extremely hypocritical. It is a message that I recoil from, the idea that we should indoctrinate our soldiers. In the same way that we inoculate them against diseases, we should inoculate them against the economists’—or philosophers’—sort of thinking, since it might lead to them to think: am I so sure this cause is just? Am I really prepared to risk my life to protect? Do I have enough faith in my commanders that they’re doing the right thing? What if I’m clever enough and thoughtful enough to figure out a better battle plan, and I realize that this is futile? Am I still going to throw myself into the trenches? It’s a dilemma that I don’t know what to do about, although I think we should confront it at least.

————————–

I could not avoid reflecting that, philosophically speaking, Mr. Dennett is a member of the school of Analytic Philosophy founded, twice essentially, in the course of the first half of the last century by Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Wittgenstein was, indubitably, a neurasthenic and neurotic, a homosexual, a crank and a wet liberal goo-goo, hostile to wealth, prone to romanticizing the poor, indifferent or actively hostile to formality and tradition (try to find a photograph of Wittgenstein wearing a tie). But all his personal demons, all the balderdash that Ludwig Wittgenstein embraced did not prevent him from volunteering to serve as an officer in Austrian Army when WWI broke out.

Wittgenstein served as an artillery officer, fought on both the Russian and Italian fronts, and was awarded three major Imperial Austrian medals for valor. One commendation spoke of “[h]is exceptionally courageous behaviour, calmness, sang-froid, and heroism”, which had “won the total admiration of the troops.” Wittgenstein actually wrote much of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus while serving in the trenches.

What has happened to separate Dennett from Wittgenstein? Much more indoctrination in bad Moral Philosophy and religious heresy from which not even professional training and expertise in Analytic Philosophy suffices to inoculate the potential victim and secure immunity.

C.S. Lewis wrote a famous essay, titled The Abolition of Man, in which he describes the mind-and-soul-numbing impact of a typical liberal elementary school textbook (which he calls “The Green Book,” which systematically denies the objectivity of values, which –in other words– trains the young to be (sophisters, calculators, and) “economists,” i.e. liberal materialist conformists like Dennett.

The operation of The Green Book and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests. It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals. This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks Intelligence. It is not so. They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardour to pursue her. Indeed it would be strange if they were: a persevering devotion to truth, a nice sense of intellectual honour, cannot be long maintained without the aid of a sentiment which Gaius and Titius [Lewis’s fictional names of the “Green Book”‘s authors] could debunk as easily as any other. It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.

And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

29 May 2012

C.S. Lewis Poem

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Peter Nicolai Arbo, Hervors død (Hervor‘s Death), 1880

Cliche Came Out of its Cage
by C. S. Lewis

1

You said ‘The world is going back to Paganism’.
Oh bright Vision! I saw our dynasty in the bar of the House
Spill from their tumblers a libation to the Erinyes,
And Leavis with Lord Russell wreathed in flowers, heralded with flutes,
Leading white bulls to the cathedral of the solemn Muses
To pay where due the glory of their latest theorem.
Hestia’s fire in every flat, rekindled, burned before
The Lardergods. Unmarried daughters with obedient hands
Tended it by the hearth the white-armed venerable mother
Domum servabat, lanam faciebat. at the hour
Of sacrifice their brothers came, silent, corrected, grave
Before their elders; on their downy cheeks easily the blush
Arose (it is the mark of freemen’s children) as they trooped,
Gleaming with oil, demurely home from the palaestra or the dance.
Walk carefully, do not wake the envy of the happy gods,
Shun Hubris. The middle of the road, the middle sort of men,
Are best. Aidos surpasses gold. Reverence for the aged
Is wholesome as seasonable rain, and for a man to die
Defending the city in battle is a harmonious thing.
Thus with magistral hand the Puritan Sophrosune
Cooled and schooled and tempered our uneasy motions;
Heathendom came again, the circumspection and the holy fears …
You said it. Did you mean it? Oh inordinate liar, stop.

2

Or did you mean another kind of heathenry?
Think, then, that under heaven-roof the little disc of the earth,
Fortified Midgard, lies encircled by the ravening Worm.
Over its icy bastions faces of giant and troll
Look in, ready to invade it. The Wolf, admittedly, is bound;
But the bond will break, the Beast run free. The weary gods,
Scarred with old wounds the one-eyed Odin, Tyr who has lost a hand,
Will limp to their stations for the Last defence. Make it your hope
To be counted worthy on that day to stand beside them;
For the end of man is to partake of their defeat and die
His second, final death in good company. The stupid, strong
Unteachable monsters are certain to be victorious at last,
And every man of decent blood is on the losing side.
Take as your model the tall women with yellow hair in plaits
Who walked back into burning houses to die with men,
Or him who as the death spear entered into his vitals
Made critical comments on its workmanship and aim.
Are these the Pagans you spoke of? Know your betters and crouch, dogs;
You that have Vichy water in your veins and worship the event
Your goddess History (whom your fathers called the strumpet Fortune).

Hat tip to Max Jacobson and Tristyn Bloom.


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