The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Lewis on Reason, Morality, and Emotions

"An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about the ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or of Practical Reason is idiocy."

"Wherever any precept of traditional morality is simply challenged to produce its credentials, as though the burden of proof lay on it, we have taken the wrong position."

"If we are to have values at all we must accept the ultimate platitudes of Practical Reason as having absolute validity..."

--C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

The Abolition of Man was the first book by Lewis that I read. I returned to it recently and I had forgotten that he made an argument that is sort of a practical corelate to the argument concerning theoretical reason in the first few chapters of Miracles.

It would be an interesting project to see just how parallel the arguments are.


There is also some interesting stuff about Reason and the Emotions. I think perhaps the first time I read it it came accross as pretty traditionally Platonic with the emotions not fareing too well.

"The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it."

"Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism."

"As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the 'spirited element.'"

"The preservation of society, and of the species itself, are ends that do not hang on the precarious thread of Reason: they are given by Instinct."

However, inspite of the direct quotation of Plato, I now sense a greater tinge of Aristotle. He no less than Plato thought the emotions should be tamed by reason, yet the foundations of reason are grasped by intuition. Reason is discursive and needs premises to go to work on. The ultimate premises are got simply by *senseing* them.

And these basic platitudes are *not* subject to scrutiny by reason, whether practical or theoretical. They are the axioms and we can either accept them or not, but we can niether defend them nor refute them. That doesn't sound much like rationalism any more.

2 Comments:

At Monday, October 09, 2006 9:00:00 PM, Blogger B. D. Mooneyham said...

Have you read "Why I am not a pacifist"? He makes some of the same claims about reason.

"Now any concrete train of reasoning involves three elements: Firstly, there is the reception of facts to reason about. These facts are either received from our own senses, or from the report of other minds . . . Secondly, there is the direct, simple act of the mind perceiving self-evident truth, as when we see that if A and B both equal C, then they equal each other. This act I call intuition. Thirdly, there is an art or skill of arranging the facts so as to yield a series of such intuitions which linked together produce a proof of the truth or falsehood of the proposition we are considering.

" . . . You can't produce rational intuition by argument, because argument depends upon rational intuition."

He describes this process of Reason as an analogy to answer the question, "how do we decide what is good or evil?"

 
At Tuesday, October 10, 2006 8:38:00 AM, Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

Yes, this is a theme througout Lewis. Victor Reppert traces many of the lines in his book _C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea_.

 

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